Man-of-War Bird

© By Medbh McGuckian

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What do you sing behind the music
on the street side of the street
that never slept?
Your much-concealed silhouette
turns the room’s deliberate dark
into a sweet-briar island,
where conflicting window-light
deadens the windows, filling them up
until they breathe together.

It could be this year’s kisses
or any kind of love locked
in the bars on the wings of the chaffinch,
or the arms of the earliest woman.
Your face that dressed itself
free of everything except beauty
and was open like a shelf
from the beginning
changes all my pictures of the air:

so a Freedom Box on a soldier quilt
seems a hat nesting on a black bed,
and a slow broom against my white
shoes in a summer kitchen,
recalls a Red Throated Diver
crowned in his winter plumage.

© Medbh McGuckian, Man-of-War Bird, 1998, complete text, Shelmalier, 1998, The Gallery Press.

Medbh McGuckian’s poem lends itself to no easy interpretation.

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