Lighthouse Keeper

It’s twenty years now since they unmanned the lantern,
left it unwatched and sent me away,
yet still I have dreams of that broad beam of light
sweeping the white caps, combing the waves.

Some summer’s day take the ferry to Clare Island,
see a black and white tower overlooking Clew Bay,
where I first heard my mother say the rosary for sailors,
watched her fry herring on the wood-burning stove.

Where myself and my father cleaned rain-battered windows,
polished brass instruments till they gleamed like stars,
peered through the telescope at kittiwakes and guillemots,
searched for the Seven Sisters in dark, winter skies.

These landlocked days I’m washed up like wreckage
and all I could wish for is tussocks of sea pinks,
grey seals sleeping on rocks pummelled smooth,
echoes of footsteps on spiral stone stairs.

Jane Clarke

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