Blackwater salmon

Here’s a poem I wrote in the summer for two friends who got married in Ireland. The wedding took place in a house on the Blackwater River a few miles down stream from Lismore. It is a wonderful stretch of tidal river. At high tide it spreads wide like a lake, wide enough to land a sea-plane on. At low tide its mud banks run wide on either side of the current. On an earlier visit to the house I swam across the river every day – a cold journey in peat brown water, the power of the river was visceral, even when the tide was on the turn.

Blackwater salmon

Weary we leave the heaving sea,
the weight of it
slips away and there is
the sweet stink of our river.
Its peat load, and
mud banks soft sides
leaking memories of past runs,
the twist inland, a compulsory climb
up the pouring out of rain
to the river’s tail, its high pools a haven of
tame water, tree shade and a
gravel bed.

Disembarked under the road bridge
we shoal: a handful of silver
thrown against the wind.
We group like a fist
pointing east
counting the miles,
waiting for the ebb.

The brown water filters evening light and
the river stills, stops
and now slips backwards
against the slope,
tilting the world in our favour and now
we swim for the mountains,
for everything we’ve got.
The channel tight,
rutted down, we run nose to tail
a homing band of cold red blood,
hidden to the heron and
the night watchman.

We are lousy, and tired
and intent on doing the right thing.
Inland a night wind swells in the swamped rushes,
whipping applause from summer trees.
noiseless hulls of cloud chase the moon across the
black river top,
the wind chops the water
creating confusion on an otter bend, where
a stone house stands.
There are vibrations
and muffled light,
the mountains are closer than ever.

Camphire House

16 July 2011

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