WestWords Perfect Pair 20.06.2014

The poet, professor and critic Brendan Kennelly was born in Ballylongford Co. Kerry in 1936.  He has more than thirty books of poems to his credit including My Dark Fathers, 1964, The Voices, 1973 and The House That Jack Didn’t Build, 1982.  His novels include The Crooked Cross 1963 and The Florentines 1967.  Accompanied by White Night from the Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi, here is:


By Brendan Kennelly

No dream that I remember
Can touch it.
Not even my childspicture of Christ’s cloak

On Easter morning was white as this.
It surpassed
The white bounce of the waterfall

And the secret of wheat,
It put to shame
The names of girls

And the frosty breath of old men,
Fingers of women who have lost blood
In their sickness

And seem hardly able to contain
Bursting through their skin.

It was whiter than the whitest part of my mind
Or a sheet of paper lying on the table
Undefiled by words.

Though I could not look at it
It enveloped me.
I drowned in the whiteness,

Felt it filtering through every gross bone
Cold and impeccable.
I was in a country where sin was unknown

And error did not exist.
It was simply that because of the whiteness
Ice and rain and mist

Could not be thought of.
In the whiteness there seemed no need
Even of love.

Which, I believe, was why
I closed my eyes to find the darkness,
To try to banish the whiteness.

And I did.
And I found
A scatter of ants on the ground

And though they blundered hither and thither
Like drunken guests at a wedding
They did not maul each other

But did what they had to do at my feet
Before my eyes
From which the whiteness is vanishing still
Though it never dies.


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