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Last Look

(in memoriam E. G.)

We came upon him, stilled

and oblivious,

gazing into a field

of blossoming potatoes,

his trouser bottoms wet

and flecked with grass seed.

Crowned blunt-headed weeds

that flourished in the verge

flailed against our car

but he seemed not to hear

in his long watchfulness

by the clifftop fuchsias.

He paid no heed that day,

no more than if he were

sheep’s wool on barbed wire

or an old lock of hay

combed from a passing load

by a bush in the roadside.

He was back in his twenties,

travelling Donegal

in the grocery cart

of Gallagher and Son,

Merchant, Publican,

Retail and Import.

Flourbags, nosebags, buckets

of water for the horse

in every whitewashed yard.

Drama between hedges

if he met a Model Ford.

If Niamh had ridden up

to make the wide strand sweet

with inviting Irish,

weaving among hoofbeats

and hoofmarks on the wet

dazzle and blaze,

I think not even she

could have drawn him out

from the covert of his gaze.