A Brigid's Girdle
Last time I wrote I wrote from a rustic table
Under magnolias in South Carolina
As blossoms fell on me, and a white gable
As clean-lined as the prow of a white liner
Bisected sunlight in the sunlit yard.
I was glad of the early heat and the first quiet
I'd had for weeks. I heard the mocking bird
And a delicious, articulate
Flight of small plinkings from a dulcimer
Like feminine rhymes migrating to the north
Where you faced the music and the ache of summer
And earth's foreknowledge gathered in the earth.
Now it's St Brigid's Day and the first snowdrop
In County Wicklow, and this a Brigid's Girdle
I'm plaiting for you, an airy fairy hoop
(Like one of those old crinolines they'd trindle),
Twisted straw that's lifted in a circle
To handsel and to heal, a rite of spring
As strange and lightsome and traditional
As the motions you go through going through the thing.
The Spirit Level (Faber & Faber Ltd., 1996)
and this poem from the collection 'Crossings'
On St. Brigid's Day the new life could be entered
By going through her girdle of straw rope
The proper way for men was right leg first
Then right arm and right shoulder, head, then left
Shoulder, arm and leg.
Women drew it down
Over the body and stepped out of it
The open they came into by these moves
Stood opener, hoops came off the world
They could feel the February air
Still soft above their heads and imagine
The limp rope fray and flare like wind-born gleanings
Or an unhindered goldfinch over ploughland.