Ireland West : Hem of the Sea

My recent work comes from time last summer spent on the west coast of Ireland on the Dingle and Kerry peninsulas.  The Great Famine haunts the landscape with absence: ruined cottages returning to gorse and bracken or morphing into new stone walls or garden paths.  Emigration marks the land with unused fields climbing a mountain.  They seem impossibly high to our eyes used to flat fertile land.  Even the verge beside a highway would make a field in Ireland.

This land is the far edge of Europe where the next pub is Boston or New York as the Irish pubs declare.  Drink now and drink deep!  The sea slams into high cliffs, moulds sea caves and makes tidal races where the water boils in opposing currents.  The sun dies into the sea, trailing light and spilling over the mud flats of low tide.

My paintings engage with the land, the light and the sea.  They refer to the field lines: the small fields drawn by human lives against a rocky mountain.  The fields erase in wind and growth.  The light picks up hidden lines and the signs of human work on the land.  I pick up a brush and paint the edges, field against field, land against sea and sky.  I pick up a brush and aim for the light.

An Afternoon with Seals : Great Blasket Island

All day the seals wait for the zodiac whine, deep
deep in the waves, like a bee humming in water, 
leaving ghosts
revenants on the beach.

For thousands of years
women laid nets on the fine ochre sand,
men patched frail skin boats,
canoes that could carry a cow lashed tight,
a package bound, inert,
on wooden ribsboundaries curve
sea deep sky
and sky deep sea.

There were bonfires, dances,
singing on the fringe of Europe, last
island before Manhattan, or Newfoundland;
but the seals could hear farewell, farewell
in a word: Amerikay 

New York, Boston, Philadelphia,
Quebec; far islands became cellars,
sod shanties, paper rooms. 

Men dreamed of clouds, and women dreamed of birds
turning above the lap of the Great Blasket
her back hunched against the sea,
her lap cradled white homes and green fields. 

The young go first, the old
tell stories amongst themselves,
their tales are stones
down dry wells.

The old women wander the beach and
the seals promenade
up and down, ten feet from shore,
twenty in company, their large eyes
and grey mottled heads following.

Some hold the souls of the dead,
and the women speak to them in Irish
as to their absent children.

This the seals remember when the zodiac comes,
they follow us down the beach,
drift close; we whisper

air and breath
they listen: 

trying to recall the Irish words
for mother,
for home.

 statement 08

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