A VISIT TO CROOME 1745
The thatch dripped soot,
the sun was silver
because the sky
from ruts of mud to high blaze
Whitewashed walls were silver
limeflakes opened like scissored pages
nesting moss and golds of straw
and russet pools of soot;
windows small as rat holes
shone like frost-filled hoofprints
the door was charted
by the tracery of vermin.
Five Gaelic faces stopped their talk,
turned from the red of fire
into a cloud of rush-light fumes,
scraped their pewter mugs
across the board and talked about the king.
I had walked a long time
in the mud to hear
an avalanche of turf fall down,
fourteen miles in straw-roped overcoat
passing for Irish all along the road,
now to hear a Gaelic court
talk broken English of an English king.
It was a long way
to come for nothing.
- Michael Hartnett