Keening

Keening

This is dedicated to the poet Barry McSweeney, and it quotes a few phrases from his work.

The quality of keening is not narrow.
It ranges freely: back roads, low roads,
a violin heard from a window at night,
a silken rubbing, a tune you can't place,
a fellside lapwing signalling in slate grey rain:
all these betoken keening. It travels incognito
as lyric, or as perfume from a dress;
passes customs unfazed; is taken as currency
everywhere, ache bearing witness to ache.
Keening puts words in hungry mouths,
gives tongue without language, longing without hope.
With keening no man’s hand is strong,
no heart true. It mars the wild
and we who were not wild enough are marred
equally. Truly your riches are worthless;
your poverty yet shall be rendered more bitter
with keening, who has no tears. Let blood be drawn
and let the dog be driven far from the hearth
before keening shares tears: beholden to no one
it suffers all woes that none may evade it.


from The Sinking Road (Bloodaxe Books, 2008), © Paul Batchelor 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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