The Swallows in the Courtyard

for Heather Allen, Manoir de Cusai August 2018


The swallows
in the courtyard.
The moonlight
over the outbuildings.

The footprint trail
in the terracotta tiles
left by a cat
who stepped two, three, four times

from the 16th century
to vanish here:
in silence and splendour.
Your mothering work

sunk out of sight
amid Norman woodland.
Fled from Armagh
Belfast

and the smoke-filled galleries
of the 1990s,
your exile an art
– made with salvage and ebay,

thrift
and inheritance –
like Vivian Maier’s
or the Vivien girls

of Henry Darger
sheltering beauty
in the narrow space
required to forge it.

Such hierarchic privacy.
We have our tea
where a millstone rests
and the willows sway.

While around us
the sans-coulottes
and conspirateurs
ignite the periphery.

Leontia Flynn has published four collections of poetry with Jonathan Cape. Her most recent,
The Radio, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and won the the Irish Times Poetry Now award.