The Soil-Map

© By Medbh McGuckian

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I am not a woman’s man, but I can tell,
by the swinging of your two-leaf door,
you are never without one man in the shadow
of another and because the mind
of a woman between two men is lighter
than a spark, the petalled steps to your porch
feel frigid with a lost warmth. I will not
take you in hardness, for all the dark cage
of my dreaming over your splendid fenestration,
your moulded sills, your slender purlins,

the secret woe of your gutters. I will not do it
without niggardliness, like food with one
generous a moment as auspicious
and dangerous as the christening of a ship,
my going in to find the settlement
of every floor, the hump of water
following the moon, and her discolouring,
the saddling derangement of a roof
that might collapse its steepness
under the sudden strain of clearing its name.

For anyone with patience can divine
how your plasterwork has lost key, the rendering
about to come away. So like a rainbird,
challenged by a charm of goldfinch,
I appeal to the god who fashions edges
whether such turning points exist
as these saltings we believe we move
away from, as if by simply shaking
a cloak we could disbud ourselves,
dry out, and cease to live there?

I have found the places on the soil-map,
proving it possible once more to call
houses by their names, Annsgift or Mavisbank,
Mount Juliet or Bettysgrove: they should not
lie with the gloom of disputes to interrupt them
every other year, like some disease
of language making humorous the friendship
of the thighs. I drink to you as Hymenstown,
(my touch of fantasy) or First Fruits,
impatient for my power as a bride.

© Medbh McGuckian, The Soil-Map, 1982, complete text, The Flower Master & Other Poems, 1993, The Gallery Press.

Medbh McGuckian’s poem appears to have more to do with the tensions between man and woman.

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