Martin Burke

In Issue 4 on October 31, 2009 at 7:58 am

The April Navigations

April. April’s silence. A mile away the river turns.
Will the bell ring and the sailor return?
Will the harbours be safe or full of flotsam?
Who can say? Time and history await the fated moment
As birds circle above the boats but to what, to what intent?
Who might answer the cry of the gull?
Who might answer the cry of these times?
Alpha Christ –you are the bright star our longing turns towards
Yet we must also wait the fated ringing of the bell.
April. April and silence. The earth is fallow but not yet ripe.
I strike the gong of the sea and watch the water shudder.

Ships turn on the tide.
Gulls swivel and swerve but the harbours are unsafe.
There is no passage guaranteed a destination
And on the sea they travel by the old negations.
What now might we say?
What are the offerings we might bring to healing altars?
What are the words to guide us safely home?
The nets are cast in hopelessness and hope
So what song shall be sung?
Sing the dirge of the sea or the lamentation of the heart
As it turns with the tide that is turning.
O may the tide bring all sailors home and make all harbours safe
For we turn with the tides yet do not know
The flow from the undertow

Will there be faith in this time?
Will the bell ring to wholesome ends?
And will there be singing of the Gloria?
Alpha Christ –you have woven this harsh fate.
History comes with claims and needs and we are meshed
Between the singing and the wailing of this time.
Yet if not into your open hands,
If not into your healing glance
If not to these things to what can we turn as the tide turns
And calls all sailors home?
O we are those sailors in unstable ships
Of which the keel is long since broken
As are the shanties we sing to your name
While flames flare the rigging of the mind

Will the bell ring and the sailor return?–many ask.
Will there be that hope for which all long?
Will there be the healing and the grace?
Alpha Christ, only you can say,
Only you can bind the wounds of intemperate speech
And make our mouths whole.
The bell rings and the sailors wail
Though we no longer know the language of the sea.
We no longer know which wind to trust or which to turn away from.
Alpha Christ – if the boats return to wholesome harbours
Will there be singing and pennants flapping in the wind
Or will the cold silence of the world cover all again?
The river turns and so I turn to where it turns
Having no option but to go where voyagers go
Having no map beyond the maps of longing and desire.

Time and history sing the desolation of the world,
Time and history –allies and enemies,
Alpha Christ – this is the harsh fate you weave.
It is April and there is silence in the world
Yet on all things no healing balm
While the child that was born in December cries and cries.
What language do we speak that confuses our hearts?
What language might help us face the turning?
What pennants flap in the winds of this time?
Time and history . Time and all the desolations of this time
And history writing the script of our lives.
O who would claim to be the one escaping from the flow?
Alpha Christ, all turn with the tide but to what do we turn
When silence conspires with time and history?

Yet you remain our bright star of hope.
We kneel at broken altars.
We sing the psalms of desolation.
We pray –if that is what these words can be called.
The buoy-bell at the harbour mouth is ringing,
There is a thick and swirling mist upon the water,
Guidance seems withheld -we are an abandoned generation;
The undertow is faster than the tide that turns,
The undertow brings a weird music to the world.
And many, many sing it.
Yet to escape such flows and tides,
To walk in the clear light of a given morning in April
And sings the psalms of Gloria
Yes, this is the wish that the heart longs for
And this is the altar it kneels before saying
Alpha Christ you are out bright star of hope.
Songs across the waters of night
As the flames flare the rigging of the ships
O I would sing –I would sing as if healing came into the world
And all was granted ease from sorrow and pain,
Or granted at least a harbour to rest in
While the buoy-bell rings the approaching storm.

April. April and silence
I strike the gong of the sea and watch the water shudder.
The tuning fork of the world has been struck
And this is a harsh history.
Son of man, if you do not weave a gentle fate
Then what will our fate be?
I strike the gong and watch the water shudder.
I strike the gong of the sea.

Martin Burke: I have published nine books of poetry in Ireland, UK, USA, & Algeria. My plays have been performed in Belgium and the USA. My new book, due next month from the Utter Press, Ireland, is Exiles & Redemptions.

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