Snow Falling on Chestnut
Hill
Here you will find the first part of this sequence, that forms the new poems of this new
collection. It is published by Carcanet in October of 2012, as "Snow Falling on Chestnut Hill":
New and Selected Poems". The book, of some 160 pages, contains the essential poems from
all of Deane's earlier collections, alongside this new, major sequence of poems.
    I

Overture
    Freude, Tochter aus Elysium


The Joseph lilies sway, in choir, like a silent chorus
of snow-coifed nuns; you stand, distant from them,
child of God, suffering God. On sodden fields

a flock of chittering starlings shifts; the eye
is never worn with seeing, nor the ear filled
with hearing.
Freude, the poet wrote, trinken alle Wesen

an den Brüsten der Natur
; all things
nourish themselves on joy at the breasts
of Nature. Here: the field, its wet-daub acres

ragged as a famine-smitten family, only the rushes
flourishing, their knot-rooted stubborn uselessness,
the matted shivering of scutch grasses, persistent

betrayal by the rains. Bitter
as the ribs of hounds: and yet
we hold in our hearts rich meadows

of the mercy of God, all of us,
forgiving and forgiven, riveted
by the outstretched arms of the Christ-man;

made light by sorrows, and by astonishment.
By the gold-flush blossoming of furze-bushes
round the edges of the field. Swallows

were flying low over the wild meadow and already
summer symphonies were giving way
to organ-fugues of the fall; child of God,

suffering God, I have moved so many years
across uncertainties, listening for that slow
basso profundo, source and sustenance of our grief, our joy. . .

Freude!


*


I was remembering that old cantankerous composer, deaf
as his podium, how he waved his hands about and heard
his Ninth Symphony’s shout of joy; and marvelling how he stood
gazing out across the blurred and many

faces of death’s company (full
orchestra, full chorus) who sang :
Brüder, überm Sternenzelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen
! Brothers, above
the canopy of stars, a loving Father lives!


*


Father walked the kitchen floor
evenings, hands clenched behind his back;
mother held her head down, there had been disputes

and the air was dense
from withholding presences; she prayed
Legion of Mary prayers, whispered militancy, the sibilances

irritating. There sank within me,
down to irretrievable depths, habits
of pleading and the rusted anchor of guilt.

When mother had whispered her way into her heaven,
father sank into his depths, telling sins
on the ambit of his rosary,

bead after bead, a slow circuit.

Now, I, child of the times,
have been down to the shore again;  
I hold his old brown chaplet,

crucifix dangling; each fine-wrought bead
fingered to a dull smoothness,
chain tarnished from handling

but holding firm; I tell my own
blithe and sorry histories, bead after bead,
walk the length of the pier, hands clenched behind my back.

Brüder, überm Sternenzelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen
 :

© John F. Deane