"Trees make good messengers/ in both directions."

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Issue 15: To the New

Issue 14: The Double Issue

Issue 13: Free Form

Issue 12: The Necessary Ear

Issue 11: The Necessary Eye

Issue 10: Out on a Limb

Issue 9: The Missing Body

Issue 8: The Lily

Issue 7: Passages

Issue 6: No More Tears

Pamela Alexander

Dingle Way

        for my sister, who stayed home

If not for the politics of famine, we
would have been born here.

Could tell a Dublin car from a Tip.
Poont from pound; now they’re both
Euros. Oh, her
literary bent. Rub two

words together for a plot: where, because.

Story story. The long
and the short of it.
The part about the mother
has to come first.

She opened the light for us
like a book. Spine cracked.

First, about the mother.
(You say everything twice.)
I know, I know.

After supper she stood
in the field. Looking at the sky.
At nothing. Stood until

Books in the museum: made of bark,
of jade. Rope, rice.

* * *

If not for. Early beside the house
an owl called. Eerily an owl. My first Irish.

The story way. The way here.
Who did what of course. Who’s related,
can’t leave that out. Families
grow on trees. Where’s she from?

Prayers can be to. They can also be of.

My husband’s from here,
his mother’s kin shipbuilders
and lighthouse keepers. (I knew
the sea’d get in here somewhere.
Inlets.) It’s an island. He can’t swim.

Rampant on a sea of

Our mother’s family, rampant on a field of

Buddhists copied prayers to please
the gods. Handwritten strips fluttered
from branches. Trees make good messengers
in both directions.

Then invented block prints for faster copies.

Two short stories don’t make a long one.

(You say everything twice.) Not everything.
(More than twice.) There are reasons.
So does the ocean. (So did she.)

* * *

People smoke together at the pub, play
chess and Scrabble, later darts, watch
--no, listen to—the telly. It speaks English.

A lovely dinner though we all talk about rats
and bees. Now we walk in the road.
No moon, but the night luminous,
soft, an August sky as west as you can go
without a boat. The violent high hill
and below us, dimly, islands like freighters, each
trailing its cloud to leeward. Steaming
for port? We are walking in the road
and singing. Tralee, tralee, a place
or a song? Anybody join in.

He said he lay in the field, studying maybe,
and let bees walk on him. Their feet were cold.

Dingle bells, Dingle all the way,
he and I sing later, in the car.

Outside, sheep blur by, shoulders
sprayed a blue that brightens the dun fields.

Field: a piece of land
with an identity. Country, county, field.
How successfully I am neither here nor there.
With him and not. With her.

Hay in black plastic cubes or cylinders.
Abstractions, field of.

* * *

From the Latin to speak, become both
private prayer and public address.

Oratory as prayer hut. Were the prayers
sung? Choir of one. Conical, stones
fitted together in the twelfth century, still
weatherproof. Still

standing, afield. A sign of.

* * *

Air: two angels holding gospel books.

Earth: two mice holding the eucharist,
scrutinized by two cats with mice on their backs.

The Book of Kells looked grimy in the dim light.
Dozens of people crowding, a guard saying
Move along there. Some colors—white lead, red
lead, yellow arsenic—even then
they knew were poisonous.

The cost of memory. Cost of prayer.

Water: an otter with a fish in its mouth.

She stood, said “-----.” Said
“------.” No, I can’t
remember what, only
the form of her speaking.

Where is Fire? The page upon which

An old church in ruins, gray in the rain, gray
in the sun. Antenna glistening above it.

Something about its being spoken, you know.
The timing, the timbre, the presence of a voice.
What’s written is history.

The Gallatus Oratory. Port
in the invisible storm,
the visible. It has stood aside from
how many wars? Has held its place.

Two figures, the speaker and the spoken,
both disembodied.

As if fire uttered a sound. As if it could
be transcribed.

* * *

Orthography changed by fiat. Whose.
Not Irish speakers. A form of suppression,
assimilation, to make the language fit
for the Internet--familiar to strangers,
strange to its people.

In the country, in Dunquin, in Ballyferriter,
etas and thorns survive. Road signs
handpainted. English underneath, sometimes.

Not everyone does what everyone does.

* * *

She wrote for herself at first, then for others,
now for herself. A way of living, the living
she makes. Holds herself up to see the light
as it flows. The Liffey in a jar. The Charles.
Upper Missouri.

I say that in the third person. Who
is that? Someone made up, make believe.
Not here, but here.

* * *

Western coast again, a room above the rocky edge.
Noon, the hardest light. Sea moiling below, ice
green. Cows low, now and then a dog barks.
Birds, one cat. Sheep and flies
everywhere, nobody cares.

Wait. Try again. The waves.
The waves hike their white skirts
to jump up on the rocks. The rocks

No, the sea is oily, bread sour.
Holidays are over.

* * *

Everyone speaks some lines.
Others repeat them. Everyone makes up
a few lines of the book which is
various and vast and anonymous.