Thursday, October 12, 2006

Michael Donaghy

When I wrote before about Eolath I said that after I had heard of his death I wished I had written to him and told him what a great experience his workshop for teachers had been. I had meant to do it and chickened out.

My friend Grainne took me to hear this poet named Michael Donaghy reading a few years ago. I hadn't heard of him before but his poetry (and the performance of it) was utterly captivating (click on title link to hear him). Sadly he died suddenly in 2004. I had chickened out of talking to him on the evening I saw him perform (probably a good thing as I might have choked on my gush). But I did email him some time later and he kindly emailed back to say thanks. When I read his stuff it makes me feel waves of gratitude that there once was somebody who could write it down like this.


John 20:24 -29

We fell out of love as toddlers fall
glancing down, distracted, at their feet,
as the pianist in the concert hall
betrays her hands to thought and adds an extra beat -
The thought vertiginous. The reprimand.
It fells the bee mid-flight. It made me stall
before a holy water font in Rome
half afraid that if I dipped my hand
I'd find the water's surface hard as stone
and - this you'd never understand -
half afraid to leave the thing alone.
For I'd been taught that Jesus walked the sea
and came to Peter three leagues out of port.
Said Peter Bid me to come unto thee
and strode on faith dryfoot until he thought....
and thinking, sank. I'd never learnt to swim
but I'd seen insects skim across a pond
and I'd seen glasses filled above the brim.
Some firm conviction keeps a raindrop round.
What kept me rigid as a mannequin?

We fell out of love and nearly drowned.
The very wordlessness all lovers want
to feel beneath their feet like solid ground
dissolved to silences no human shout
could ripple -
like the surface of that font
when other voices, tourist and devout,
grew still, and someone whispered by my side
O ye of little faith -and shallow doubt-
choose here to wet that hand or stand aside.
No one was there. But I could tell that tone.
I heard his ancient apostolic voice
this evening when I went to lift the phone
to tell you this - and froze. The reprimand.
For once, in two minds, Thomas made the choice
to bless and wet with blood his faithless hand.

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