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Richard F. Meredith


Ireland, Ireland

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The Poetry of Richard Meredith contains a collection of Mr. Meredith's poetry, from Ireland. His site was voted "Site of the Week" in Dec. 2000 -- by Irish Poetry. Also, a number of his individual poems have received awards from various sources.

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A flask of iced water


Richard F. Meredith

A flask of iced water : a glass,
upturned on a stone. Beside it
a packet of cigarettes and a lighter.

I sit on a heavy slab of grey slate
that once served as a window-sill
to one of the derelict houses nearby.
The slab, across two concrete blocks
is warm but hard
and so I use a cushion.
The stone wall at my back
is uneven and jagged, but bearable.

The wall and its attendant ivy
shelters me from the scorching sun behind
until the evening
when the mottled, shifting shadow-line
rambles across the page of my book,
forcing me to squint against the glare
and finally driving me to put up the large
multicoloured umbrella, with its extension shaft,
supporting it against the rusting remains
of the old car beside me.

Sitting once more, I use the break in my concentration
to survey the garden.
Reclaimed from a wilderness
of nettles, briars, ivy and weeds,
it is beginning to take shape.

The clothes-line,
running the full length of the garden,
is heavy with a multitude of sheets and shirts,
unruffled in the dead breezeless air,
and is all her work.
Her work too, the roses at the far end,
the shrubs in an unplanned jumble
and the two patches
where she forked up the stones and rubble
and with one of the children
sowed lettuce, onions and scallions,
now almost ready for the table.

I still see her little fingers
dropping the seeds into the carefully prepared drill,
her mother kneeling with her,
low voices murmuring to each other, blending
with the drone of passing cars and bees,
their secret conversations
buried with the seed, to be harvested
at some future time.

At lanes end


Richard F. Meredith

We left the car at the top of the lane
so that you could walk, as if
you could, back
into your childhood.
You did not understand
as you do now,
that what we are
is all inside and moves
along with us:
but then, my eyes
could not see through yours:
my disbelief in spirits
leaving you cold.

Side by side we walked: I
on recently laid tarmac: you
on the ankle-wrenching stones
in the ruts each side
of the long grassy strip, meandering
like one of those fuzzy caterpillars,
around the distant bend.
Nor could I see the robin build
in the old discarded jam-jar
in the hedge: the briars
loaded with the fattest blackberries
that left you looking cyanotic:
the heady perfume
of woodbine in august:
the frozen winter puddles
crackling underfoot:
the tyre treads
of your father's heavy
post office cycle
fossilized in mud:
nor could I hear the laughter
of your brothers and sister
break the silence,
running the last stretch
to the cottage
where you knew she was waiting,
sitting in the corner drinking tea,
watching the big pot of steaming potatoes.

But I did walk through the roofless remains
of Paddy's shack: orphaned again.
Disturbing , that:
finding those letters from his sister
still in the drawer: small talk
but cherished nonetheless.
Something stopped me from keeping them,
reverence perhaps
to that disintegration.
I left the pages like fallen leaves
to the wind and rain -- left them
where you left your name
for mine.

Ghosts, all ghosts, gone
like the field stolen by the fog
creeping in from the sea:
memories -- mist on your eyes:
at lanes end.

Had I driven into the past


Richard F. Meredith

Had I driven into the past __


Had I driven into the past that morning
would I have noticed you ?
That , I suppose , might have depended
on your appearance . And now that I think of it ,
you would have been wearing black ,
always an eye-catching colour .
I would have scanned your height , your age ,
hair face bust waist hips legs
in a predatorial instant .
Would you have warranted a backward glance ?
and had I checked the mirror ,
would your image have altered ?
slowly de-misting as through a tear-threatened eye
or a vision , emerging from the density of a dream .
And what would I have seen ?
You . . . . . leaning against a glassless kiosk ,
its silent telephone dangling
from a stretched steel spiral :
now you may never discover meanings :
last night's fuel , that burned so brightly ,
by morning turns to ash .
You light another cigarette and look
at your image in a shop window :
your reflection is distorted , dark ,
and full of cut-price produce :

the envelope in your hand has no stamp ,
no name , no address , and the letter inside is blank :
you roll it into a ball and eat it .
How an emptiness can saturate you so !
Those years drifted quickly into days
the days to minutes
and the minutes . . . . . turned to moments until
there was nothing left .
( All night you held his hand , with a delicacy he bespoke : )
yet , the magic of your love was mysteriously insufficient
and you will never now be old enough
to call him , comfortably , by his name .
Your image recedes until you become a monument ,
sculpted to a question mark
at the end of the sentence of a street , asking
whether beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder
or in that which is beheld : a butterfly . . .
will you remember ? unlike a butterfly ,
the unanaesthetised dissolution
that was the horror of metamorphosis .
Your recollection may be redemption ,
as love emerges from within , hate ,
a taste acquired intravenously .
Now I pass an empty hearse outside a house
in which the living room is full of dark aunts and uncles
whose inexplicably truncated heroic statures
you have fled .

Inside another room , curtain-drawn and darkened ,
a single candle burns :
( and in its flickering , angelic light ,
his face , pale as a snowflake —
which attains perfection of its form
just before it falls into the earth , seems
almost alive again . )


I reach my destination and unload my father ,
( for that is what he is and this is the business of the day )
and with his pack of pills and potions , lead him
and all his dulled senses into the waiting room .
I take a magazine , the largest ,
in deference to my premonition .
There is not a sound . Thirty people in the waiting room
of a chest hospital and not a sound :
no one speaks or coughs ,
not even a wheeze , and then , silent until now ,
he speaks , loudly , believing I am as deaf as he .
" I have an awful dose of the runs , I have to go . . .
and I wouldn’t mind , but my piles are giving me hell "
He shuffles out and down the corridor .
In the top right hand corner
of the magazine I hide behind ,
there is a photograph of a girl ,
a self-portrait in monochrome .
She is sitting in a wide window-sill inside a room
and gazes out the window . Is she watching
someone leave , or waiting for someone to arrive ?
Her long hair is tied severely back , her dress low cut
and around her graceful neck , a chain
on which a small cross nestles snugly
in the cleavage between her breasts , her short skirt
is lifted high and revealing .
" Is my trousers all right ? Have I wet myself ? . . .
My aim is not too good these days "
I lower the magazine at this announcement
and look at him , standing in the entrance to the room
and nonchalantly lie . . . " No , you're fine "
He makes his way back , exaggeratedly avoiding
the low table , in a parabolic curve
which is his downward trajectory .
One man dead , one man dying
and I cannot write them
back into existence .


And you ?
Once more I drive past : you are wearing black ,
always an eye-catching colour .
I scan your height , and your age , and your hair ,
and your face — and the silver jewellery ,
sparkling and jangling
like stars against the darkness
of a night sky .
Do you warrant a backward glance ?
I check the mirror and I see
there is a man ,
walking beside you . )

Letter to Amber


Richard F. Meredith

you say you are not wise,
that you are too young to have wisdom,
yet, as you pull your cart of newspapers
through downtown Kamloops, you stop
to watch the sun rise over sunday morning
and look at the changing colours of the trees
and sometimes you imagine
the leaves are turning purple

and you look at the horizon
and think it is beautiful :

do you not know
this is the magic
of your inheritance
and the breeze touching your cheek does so
because it wants to be with you
and the swirling snowflake, almost touching the ground
but rising again,
is dancing.