“A team of physicists announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s theory.”
– New York Times, 11 February 2016
In the firefighter’s dawn, a waking jolt
Shook a scientist’s needle in its bracket.
Our storm-flensed heaven made no sign of rain.
We went about our business, unaware
Of what would come of that discovery
While somewhere unnoticed, a faithful eye
Tracked our orbit: an errant planet caught
Mid-push and pull, the struggle out of sight
From us, who were its blest inhabitants.
Quietly, we left the ageless distance
To our best instruments. But this morning
Was different. I heard it too, the song
From out beyond the rim of all we were
Where one absence languished for another.
“In the months after the tsunami, taxi drivers in the coastal town of Ishinomaki reported picking up ghost passengers who asked to be brought to their destination and then disappeared, leaving their fare unpaid.”
– Inquisitor, 4 February 2016
This, then, is the afterlife. A bend, a
Shout, a breath of diesel, sunlight’s murmur
Bleaching the kerb a shade of persimmons.
A solitary confinement. No-one
Else in line, birds passing like vehicles
And this way from Sendai, Charon’s vessel
An old Corolla pulling up close. In
Our stories, the dead follow the whirlwind
Of a river’s course underground, until
It comes up for air. The earth is a bell
That chimes only in the water’s fingers
Or when struck with an unnatural force,
As when Izanami drew a fire from
His whalebone comb, and saw in the loam
His beloved, Izanagi, asleep
At the foot of the well. How the god wept,
Afraid! Then turned, and, bashful of his fear,
Sealed death’s throat with a stone. So here we are
Without refuge. Out from the silent town
To the highway’s shoulder, fog-lights, the sounds
Of brakes, front tyres catching earth, chassis,
An open window. Lock, both doors. Release.
Road Cutting at Glanmire
‘Gleann Maghair’: the valley of ploughed land
They learned the hard way to a city’s heart
was to drive a road into the mountain
like a river, lost between its own dry banks
with gravelled walls holding the earth in place
and fast-growing trees, for the wet topsoil.
A bypass. When it was finished they came
to see the cut that had been named after them,
mounting the ridge above its strange traffic
while their own valley of ploughed land rose
a stone’s throw behind the black backbone
of the new highway. Far as I could tell
from the bus’s window, these days the village
has a changed air, full of primary schools
and real estate. We passed a lovely church
near the auctioneer’s, but without stopping
went on into Cork, taking the road which,
we were told, had been built at great cost
to shorten the journey into the city.