The Vehicle and the Tenor

Nick Laird
When it comes at me in the mirror with its meaning 
ramping up until it passes and lowers in pitch, I’m on 
the bit of the M1 where it bisects the Ring of Gullion 

and I switch lanes, and let my right foot alleviate 
its weight on the accelerator of the Focus, 
and the ambulance is faster, and the shift in its report 

an effect of the change in the wave’s frequency 
and length on the observer, who is, in this case, me, 
heading up to Newry hospice off the redeye, and I

lag and have to have the window down for brisk air. 
If the grief moves in towards me at high speed, 
the wavelengths I observe are decreased as the frequency 

increases. I don’t know what this means though 
I can tell you how it feels: in the cryptic centre 
of my head a voice recites a rhyme I read somewhere 

or heard once or otherwise made up: 
Let us go to the woods, one little pig cries. 
But why would we do that? his brother replies.

To look for my mother, the little pig cries. 
But why would we do that? his sister replies.
For to kiss her to death, the little pig whispers.

What is driving along this but a guided dream 
since the road feeds itself in as the planed length
time feeds to the mind’s lathe to get it trimmed 

correctly to size: heavy clouds; the waterlogged
fields; a rainbow arcing faintly out to the west 
and I keep that with everything I keep to myself.

I am either in the midst of it or on my own or both 
things are true at the same time. I kill the radio. 
Were the universe to finish, music would endure

though I have no memories left for the moment before 
so when I think of you I think of you sat slumping 
on the edge of the mattress, zonked on Zopiclone, 

small and bald as a wee scaldy fallen out the nest 
and found there hours after you were meant 
to have gone on to bed. At my coming in 

you barely raise your head, your eyes are half-shut 
and you cannot find the holes for the buttons 
on your nightie, because you have it on you inside out.

I know every journey to a source is homecoming,
and I am bombing along the District of Songs 
along the Great Road of the Fews, towards you, 

through a depression left by the caldera’s collapse. 
This is the District of Poets, the district of The Dorsey: 
Doirse meaning doors or gates, the solitary pass 

to the old kingdom through the earthworks’ long 
involvement, a pair of abrupt Iron Age banks 
running parallel for a mile or so. An entrenchment. 

An entrance. All manner and slant of analogy etcetera 
but when, in the end, we had kissed you to death, 
we sat and held your cold hands for a half hour more

and wiped with tissues all the black stuff bubbling up 
from your lungs away from your lips, and wept 
a good bit, and got up then and folded your clothes
 
and stacked your cards and binned the flowers, 
and I sat out there in my rental car in the car park 
as you kept on lying in here, past all metaphor,  

left by yourself on the cleared stage like a real corpse.  

More by Nick Laird

The Bearhug

 

Click the icon above to listen to this audio poem.

Miscegenation

Even this freckle testifies to the strength
of second thoughts. My family

is a poem, the clear expression of
mixed feelings, and your emergent

system at five years old fires
like the shoal of neon tetra kept

in the depths of a ten gallon
darkness. As for infinity, it’s there,

haggling with contradiction,
asking each question but one.

You will find for a while there
you held the exquisite to daylight

before setting it down on the baize,
conquering.

Sometimes it will feel like
the entire body consists of flames;

and sometimes concrete;
sometimes collapsing like a waterfall

or steady as a lake of evening lapping,
the midges clouding the surface.

Sometimes it will feel like air
just before the air itself

turns to snow. The solution is
a solution, by which I mean

lots of things dissolving to one.

Related Poems

Poem

Why do I want to tell it
it was the afternoon of November
15th last fall and I was waiting
for it whatever it would be like

it was afternoon & raining but it
was late afternoon so dark outside my
apartment and I was special in that
I saw everything through a heightened

tear, things seemed dewy, shiny
and so I knew there was a cave
it was more or less nearby as in my
apartment it was blue inside it

dark blue like an azure twilight and the
gods lived in the cave they who
care for you take care of at death and
they had cared for Ted and were there for me
         too and in life even now