Tinderbox weather. Even the whins were on fire.
At dusk the ground was hard and the air dried.
A single star rose over the charred
garden hedges and whitebeams of our neighborhood.
Tinderbox faith. Those centuries in the dark:
the sinner’s moving lips and patient look—
the syllables seeking a miracle—
dried to kindling: waiting in drought and silence for a spark.
August. High summer in an Irish town.
Tied sheaves and a sea haze near the ocean.
A statue of the Virgin: a passerby at her shrine
who sees her move, who sees her step down: let the blaze begin
and continue: In Ballinspittle and Kinsale
men watched as the impossible became believable,
as virgins ceased to be unavailable,
as they wept real tears under sky-blue creases and plaster veils.
I lived far away. When the sun rose over
the suburb with its slate roofs and leaf cover
news came in of a season of heat and fever
no one could remember happening before in those parts: not ever.
I leaned on the windowsill. The sky was still light.
The air had heat in it and some dew and soon the weight
of the lives we lived would become inert
house and tree shadows: odd simulacra of a summer quiet.
South of me where the roots of the lilac had died
where fuchsia hung down over stone walls on the road
waiting for salt, waiting for rain, I understood
how deep they went—those thirsts that could not be satisfied.
And should have felt them, should have entered them. Instead
I stood at the open window: hide this place I said
from angels. From the terrible regard
of those who come to find them, shelter it.
I watched the tops of the Dublin hills burn out
all evening and the helicopters with their iron freight
and tonnage of water drop down what was not
the wild rain they had failed to imitate.