i.m. Robert McCrea, 1907-1990
The entrails of a salmon flower in the sink
in the picture I have of you
teaching me to gut fish.
You have lifted it from the river
at the foot of our house,
the Mourne filled with Sperrin water
and now its insides stream
like river weed running in the current—
something of the river brought home.
You handle it tenderly, call it she,
a hen, and are saddened when you find the roe
that will not have a chance to spawn.
Another time, the weather in the window different,
you show me how to clean out a hen bird,
a turkey, that will hang in the cold till Christmas.
The lesson is serious, you say. You must take out the lights
the lungs that hide in the dark of the turkey’s vaulted belly.
Put out the light and then put out the light
On ordinary days, you mush up Mother’s Pride
to feed the Rhode Island Reds, the smell of wet bread
filling the scullery for hens that scare my mother.
Those days, you had finished with the Mill
and the blizzard of the scrutching room that gave you
Monday fever. How cruel that the weekend seemed to
mend you, only to begin again.
Proust’s father gave it another name, byssinosis
from the fine linen you were dying to produce
but would never wear.
At weekends, you would make a rosary of the village lanes
up High Seein, spitting into hedges with the other men,
knowing the name of every plant it landed on.
© Maureen Boyle