Cradled in rare blue light
                the island spreads out

below. I didn’t think I’d be able
                to return this year,

but here is the house
                with its stone table

and the sudden pheasant
                with its surprising red crown

and the cows’ black flanks

in early Irish summer.
                Sounds of children

swimming in South Harbour,
                and all the while

a smell of
                fresh cut hay

mixing somehow
                with lavender.

                I think of the soul

as a winged visitor,
                wandering here, then out of view.

Who made the painting
                that hangs in the Louvre

just to the right of Giotto’s
                ‘St. Francis and the Birds’?

In it an angel kneels,
                offers Mary a lily

as he rends
                her life.

Each word a miracle,
                but it’s the riffs of plumage,

the rainbowed wings,
                that steal the show,

as if the painter
                could not restrain himself,

as if paradise
                were a tropical island

which he’d once
                caught sight of.

A farmer burns gorse
                at the end of the Bill,

black-backed gulls glide
                through the plumes

but just beyond this,
                against the background

of blue, a single sail
                fills with light.

I travelled that way
                this spring,

lay rocking in bed
                as my boat rose,

the vibrations of something
                I could not see

keeping me company
                throughout the night

though I remember
                no birds, or angels.

But there was something
                like a sail—

no paradise,
                not even a lily—

something, like
                the trembling of a sail.