Poem of the Week | April 02, 2013

This week we’re featuring a new poem by Kerry Hardie. Kerry Hardie lives in County Kilkenny, Ireland. She has published six full collections of poetry with The Gallery Press (Ireland), her most recent being The Ash and the Oak and the Wild Cherry Tree. Her Selected Poems were published by the Gallery Press in Ireland and by Bloodaxe in the U.K. She has also published two novels (A Winter Marriage and The Bird Woman) and is trying to finish a third. She has won many prizes, including the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Poetry, University of St Thomas, Minnesota; the Michael Hartnett Award; and the Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Award for Poetry.

Author’s Note:

The poem is exactly what the title states: a report. I sometimes think that all poems are simply ‘reports’ from the writer’s unconscious. Something happens, it collides deep inside you with other events that have placed markers in the psyche, and the resulting explosion causes a verbal welling-up on the page. It is then up to the poet to shape it and give it a form. I have chosen a very loose form for this poem because it is about physical things that are by their nature fairly loose and chaotic: the ambling forms of the cattle, the scattered crab apples, the uncertain date of return of migratory birds, the tentative responses that we offer each other. The poem is unified and informed by love of place, something which is easy to identify with on an unconscious level as most of us have some attachment to somewhere and we recognise the emotion when it presents itself.


There are no cows in Healy’s fields,
though they must have been there this morning,
the splatters of shit in the grass are so fresh.
There’s a monstrous gathering up by Joe Sweeny’s.
Dogs, cattle and a tractor with its engine running.
Joe Sweeny was a dealer, he’s retired, but keeps his hand in.
The paths I’ve just followed are rank with the smell of beasts
and you never get that when they’re left in peace.
I don’t know what’s going on in any of the fields
in the sense of markets, or what needs moving, or when.
But I always know what stock’s in what field
on account of needing somewhere to run the dogs.


All the fields round us grow grass,
no one has any other crop up here on the hillside.
You can stand and watch the grain-fields across the valley
turning reddish gold and coming up to harvest. Tom and Rory
were bringing cattle down the hill two days ago,
and Tom called out asking would I block the side road with the dogs.
He said they were a bit wild. Then he said to tell me the truth
they weren’t far off… and he drew his hand across his throat
and I knew he meant the slaughter-house.
He didn’t want to say it out in front of them, the way you wouldn’t say
in front of a child that his Mam hadn’t long to live.
There are sheep in Pat’s fields. They’re all bones and angles
and such a clean white. They’re not long after shearing.
They nose in thistles that are tall and close to bursting.


I know what’s in the fields when it comes to wild flowers
and trees and what grows where. There’s yarrow in the pastures now,
the blackberries are ripening. The crab-apple by the big old stones
looks like the tree did the winter we bought one too small
and everything in the Christmas box got crammed onto its branches.
The figwort is making tall spires of seed-heads, there’s a black patch
in the grass by Healy’s gate where someone burned out a wasp’s nest.


The swallows are flittering all over the place,
it won’t be too long before they start lining the wires,
then one day we’ll wake to bare skies. That’s the real sign.
No matter what flowers late or how warm the days are,
it means the year’s over, we won’t see them back
till we’ve lived through the winter. We start looking out in April,
and sometimes they’re a week early and sometimes they’re late
but they come. One year I thought the winter had won.
I was walking the dogs by the river.
A short, bitter flurry of snow came blowing up over the water,
but in among the snow there were swallows and swifts.
I was telling this to a man I know. He asked what I felt
and I said I cried and he looked at me but he didn’t say anything,
and I was glad I hadn’t pretended or acted cool.