The Byre Door
Victoria wore black when that door was made.
I rubbed the wood like shrivelled skin,
or Albert’s coffin lid: flaked, pocky, scarred.
The farmer hacked and hammered it between harder tasks:
five planks crossed by three,
an hour’s work he’d be surprised would last,
its rusting nails outseeing eyes
closed in foreign fields. And still it creaks on its hinge,
waiting, it seems, for me to leave. Or worse,
suffers the folly of my research,
an unfarmed intruder a century
from the land: no nearby kin, no stroll to church.
Long ago the cows all bolted. Today around
me spades, hoes, saws are neatly housed
in frames and, no more shaped to a hand,
a pitchfork and a scythe on the ground. Implements
like bayonets. So many ways to wound or maim,
so many ways to kill the light
and end this tourist’s idyll in the past,
my brochure of golden eggs and buttered taties
the pig’s screeching throat well out of earshot,
the dream that self is self-sufficient:
no bent limbs, short lives, the ten times pregnant,
no pestilence that walks by night.
My fingers puzzle the wood for signs,
dates, names. I hear rhymes to the Belle of Rathgael,
tales from the Bible or lines from Burns,
the dead who won’t stay quiet. If I could be,
just breathe and take things in, this summer dream
of a sunlit farm, the woods, the fields.
all this as gift, pure gift. Be like the byre
whose bricks are cracked and trampled down
yet endure, crumbling, broken but whole.