The Wow! signal, This is home now, and Gaps

By Eugene Ryan

The Wow! signal*

We’d visit him in the home,

only at the top of the road.

No coin for the ferryman

but gates of a sort

where they’d buzz you in,

and straightaway the smell.

‘Just passing through’ I’d tell myself,

drawn to look

and not to look.

Changing channels by remote

was one way I could help.

Also the smuggled whiskey and

to read.

From Palgrave’s Golden Treasury we’d launch him,

feed him out a line or two

and watch him go,

unspooling from his darkened mind

tufts of verse into

the humid air.

As we left to go

he took our hands and squeezed;

No dots,

just one long dash.

He may have spoken thanks

but it’s the eyes

that remain.

Long haul flight,

my son is slumped across my lap.

From beneath the meal tray

the beauty of his face

is wondrous,

I wonder

does he feel

how incrementally

my kisses, my embrace

contain the still encrypted pulse

of future past?



This is home now

I’d jog down through the back roads from my work,

the blazing green of tedious summer days,

to step among the guide ropes and look out

as if it was, and would remain, a secret

from the wind that I’d be here.

To move in felt like graduating, passing

to a brighter, clearer, self, the wood

smell and the graceful emptiness, the rain.

Surprised each morning, as the children slept

that I had made it here, to happiness,

but neither chance that I had landed here,

the confluence of currents bringing me

so close to cherished memories in polaroid.

The porcupine’s dilemma was for me

decided by the first and primal need

for peace, and for a time the dividend of peace

held good and sunsets were enough,

held snug by family orbits and the plot.

Upstairs we’ve yet to grow into the space,

like trousers handed down. The kids still sleep

bunched tight amidst the debris and their books.

Time was we’d stop to listen, story down,

for footfalls of Fantastic Mr. Fox,

and in the concrete freshly laid below

we even found a pawprint. (Just the one)

November, and the North wind opens up,

but let it come. The wood is cut and stacked,

the whiskey and the knitwear all arrayed,

and I am set. At night I look across

the valley, once the sea, its history

still traceable in place names and the way

it darkly lies, framed by the silent woods

and oddly peaceful motorway. Just once

I woke to snow, his back in shadow, face

lit blue, my son took in the lushness and

we watched the awful softness of its fall.

When Granddad’s round, you’d think his senses dimmed,

the way he shuffles, curses, picks his tools

and yet his eye for danger godlike in

capacity to find disaster

unforeseen by man, so by extension, me.

Just leave him, says my wife, just watch him go

so overnight, it seems, a shed appears

more solid than the house it serves, I’d guess.

His many works surround and gird the house

against the storms foretold, or for my wife

against a day when no one watches out

for us.



If I wrote down upon an endless map

the memories that tied themselves to place,

in spots and veins, as also by the gaps,

a negative would bloom, of form and space,

a pattern that could hold my life entire.

And if I were to cup it in my hands,

a desiccated coral filigree,

might I find comfort tracing out its span

Or answers to the thoughts that trouble me.

Or might I best just skim it from the shore

and let it come to rest upon some shelf

to spread its form across the ocean floor

where I could swim, an angel to myself.