Homesickness

Paul Muldoon

copyright ©2002

The lion stretched like a sandstone lion on a sandstone slab
of a bridge with one fixture, a gaslight,
looks up from his nicotine-worried forepaw
with the very same air my father, Patrick,
had when the results came back from the lab, that air of anguish-awe
that comes with the realization of just how slight
the chances are of anything doing the trick

as the sun goes down over Ballyknick and Ballymacnab
and a black-winged angel takes flight
.

The black-winged angel leaning over the sandstone parapet
of the bridge wears a business suit, dark gray. His hair is slick with pomade.
He turns away as my mother, Brigid,
turned away from not only her sandstone pet
but any concession being made.
The black-winged angel sets her face to the unbending last ray
of evening and meets rigid with rigid

as the sun goes down over Lisnagat and Listamlet
and Clonmore and Clintyclay.

Feckless as he was feckless, as likely as her to be in a foofaraw,
I have it in me to absolutely rant and rail while, for fear of the backlash,
absolutely renounce
the idea of holding anything that might be construed as an opinion.
The lion still looks back to his raw
knuckle and sighs for the possibility that an ounce
of Walnut Plug might shape up from the ash
The angel still threatens to abandon us with a single flick of her pinion

as the sun goes down over Lislasly and Lissaraw
and Derrytrasna and Derrymacash
.

Notes on the Poem

Our Poem of the Week is “Homesickness” from Paul Muldoon’s 2003 Griffin-winning collection, Moy sand and gravel, which also won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry that year. Of the collection, the judges said: “Reading Paul Muldoon’s poetry is like looking through a kaleidoscope while he jiggles your elbow. The complex rhyme-schemes, the repeated words and phrases, the refrains, the wonderful patterning unexpectedly dislocate this poet’s deep sense of place and shuttle the reader between order and chaos and back again. He reminds us that rhyme used with great resource does not restrain: rather, it is aleatory; it beckons the random and the risky.” Muldoon's fourteenth book of poetry, Howdie-Skelp, is out this November with Faber & Faber in the U.K. and Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the U.S. Paul Muldoon and Paul McCartney recently collaborated on a two-volume book, The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, which illuminates the stories behind 154 of McCartney’s song lyrics — “as close to an autobiography as we may ever come,” said Muldoon.

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