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Two poems, Michael Longley

Unpublished poems

Two poems, Michael Longley

Maria S. Mendes




In my synapses early purples persevering

As in a muddy tractor track across the duach;

Close to the old well and the skylarks’ nest, briefly

Marsh helleborines surviving the cattle’s hooves,

Then re-emerging at the waterlily lake

Between the drystone wall and otter corridors;

A stone’s throw from the Carrigskeewaun cottage

Two introverted frog orchids; in the distance

A hummock covered with autumn lady’s tresses,

Ivory spirals that vanish for a decade;

On the higher bank of the Owenadornaun

Above the sandmartins’ nesting holes, butterfly

Orchids like ballerinas; at Kilnaboy

Bee orchids under the sheela-na-gig’s display;

Dowdy neotinea maculata at my feet

Where the turlough below Mullaghmore disappears

Underground; against limestone grey at Black Head

Red helleborines igniting; the lesser twayblade

With its flower spike like a darning needle, tiny

And hidden away beneath a heather stand;

On the Tyrrells’ Kildalkey farm, pink pyramids;


Along the path to the waterfall at Cardoso,

Near Elvira’s overgrown olive grove, tongue

Orchids folded like napkins; lizard orchids

In the Mugello, shaggy, thigh-high; on Paros

Bee orchids (again) beside the marble pavement,

A blackcap singing (in Greece or Ireland?); just one

Bedraggled fly orchid in a forgotten field,

Its petals cobalt, chestnut-brown, as I recall.



Move Meleager to Carrigskeewaun,

Laughing lilies among yellow flags,

Soft narcissus and ragged robin side

By side, myrtle and bog asphodel

(Where does grass of parnassus belong?)

Innocent crocus, dark hyacinth, rose

Weighed down with affection, white violet,

Bright petals for Heliodora’s hair,

Her parting immaculate in the breeze,

Who is unlocking the galvanised gate

Or balancing on the Dooaghtry stile

Or shadowing sand dunes at Dadreen,

Heliodora, neither here nor there,

Name-twiner, flower-arranger, dream girl.

Michael Longley was born in 1939 in Belfast. He is one of Ireland’s greatest poets, well-known for his classical influences and love for Nature.