Anne Casey, Songs for Lost Days

Vestigial imprint

How I searched for you everywhere—
fingers buried in the folds
of your nightdress,
pressed to lips,
a trace of you surviving
the unintended
washing.

How I catch you sometimes
in my son’s half
-smile, his sideways glance;
how he is unaware of you there
between us in a hug,
my in-breath when I kiss
his head.

How he wriggled
from my lap—knees
grazing the polished boards
as four days before
we blew out
his first candles
around your bedside.

How unconsciously I called
your name, embraced
your lingering
warmth, waves crashing
below us—the weight
of water
pounding rock

those dark hours as your hand
froze in mine, how still
I search for you
in midnight skies,
eyes cast upwards
palms cupped,
ready to grasp

the smallest trace.

Hold fast to dreams

How you astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness
repurposing our wreckage, to swallow an oil rig or a bicycle,
a ship, a sunken chest⎯your indiscriminate accretion
of abundant goodness over manufactured ruin,
inching forward to harbour a waterlogged rainforest:
lustrous treasure unfolding so close to the sun-slick surface.

Born at the dawn of Ordovician
time, how you embrace intricate multiplicities⎯
tiny lavish-hearted conservationist, tireless labourer,
magnanimous host: from such small quarter
to house, to home one quarter
of Neptune’s herds.

Each delicate tendril pressed
to service⎯to sculpt your hardy battlements
that bear the brunt of Poseidon’s rage, warding off waves,
how you shelter and sustain imperiled island domains.
Embattled, unsung, nocturnal bloomer⎯how you
take your cue from the moon

to launch upon our sea of troubles
a glimmering burst, a pulsing universe of shimmering stars,
to whisper: shut your eyes and see⎯each one a freely-given gift,
embryo of hope: if we dare
to dream.

One of nature’s great conservationists, coral occupies less than 0.1% of the world’s ocean area while providing a home for at least 25% of Earth’s marine species. Under threat from human activities facilitated by the erosion of environment protection laws, coral reefs provide essential wave protection to island communities, and harbour vital fish stocks. Coral colonies are known as “rainforests of the ocean”.
The title and italicised words are quotations: “Hold fast to dreams” (Langston Hughes), “astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness” (Maya Angelou), “sea of troubles” (William Shakespeare) and “shut your eyes and see” (James Joyce).

Making up the end

All those nights alone in the dark,
my eyelashes scraping

the pillow turning
to claws sharpening in the dark

as you stood slowly
freezing for twelve hours—six, seven

days a week, fell asleep
on my pillow halfway

through a story you made up
as you went along

just to save me
from myself

and I’d wake you
so you could invent the ending.

It’s twelve years since
I held your hand

until it turned
to ice in mine,

all of the breath in me
left with you

and though I could have filled
a valley full

of shed and held-back tears,
I finally realise what saves us

is what makes us up as we go along,
conquers all the monsters—

the toughest and tenderest
substance in the universe,

the light that reaches
to the end

of all the darkness,
breaches every gossamer layer

between where you went to
and I remain.

It’s all we can have and hold,
all we can take with us

in the end:
the more we give away,

the more that
comes back—

if only
we choose:

in the end,
it’s only love.

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Anne Casey is an Irish poet and writer living in Sydney. Author of four books of poetry, Anne’s work ranks in The Irish Times’ most read. A journalist, magazine editor, legal author, and media communications director for 30 years, she is widely published and awarded internationally, most recently as winner of the American Writers Review Competition 2021. She is the recipient of an Australian Government Scholarship for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney. anne-casey.com @1annecasey

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