Poem – Kevin Ireland

The shortest day

It’s close to the winter solstice in these parts
though the precise moment isn’t anywhere near
the same as when our northern forebears dragged
huge stones for miles then raised them into rows
in circles to catch a shaft of light and a savant
with a tricky smile would say: ‘I told you so.’

We’re thrilled no more by miracles of prediction
or expect a baby god to be dispatched to save us
as our speck of cosmic dust floats in orbits
through a corner of a backyard of the universe.
It takes a granite ignorance and discipline
these days to get away with that one.

It’s regrettable that myths don’t work
they way they did. They used to protect us
from anarchy, despair and maverick speculation
and provide a purpose and cohesion and a comfort
to the mind. Now shortest days just come
and go without illuminations to impress us.

But nostalgia for old and other-worldy answers
still has uplifting seasonal cheer even in the south
where we must cope with being six months
out of kilter. It’s just that I’d rather stay in bed
at dawn in winter with a radio, a book, a cup of tea —
perfect modern cures for faith, anxiety and cold.


Kevin Ireland

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