The gift of a day

A manuscript complete and sent. It’s the first ‘day off’ in a while without a pending deadline. I’m back to the comfort of routines.

Friday is market day. In the mellow morning air, I push a trolley through the maze of traders couped under tin rooves: veggies, fruit, cheese, fish, poultry and bread. I watch and talk. I touch the avocados and hold the peaches in my hand. I look wistfully at a brie de meaux and banter with the fishmonger as he prepares my snapper fillets.  I imagine recipes in my head, and anticipate the idiosyncrasies of those I cook for. Finally, I linger with the sweep of flowers, and choose my colour of gorgeous for the week.

A gift for Christmas was a collection of poetry by Michael O’Siadhail. What an extraordinary ability this Irishman has to give words to things I can only feel. This one provides a benediction to my morning.


What does it mean?
Suddenly, effortlessly, to touch the core.
Mostly in the glow of friends
but today just strolling the length of a city street.
Carnival moments.
The apple back on its tree
in a garden lost, a garden longed for.

I move among the traders.
Stacks of aubergines, rows of tiger-lilies.
Rings of silver and cornelian
A feast of action.
Crosslegged, an Indian plays
music on a saw-blade glittering in the sun.

In the sweat of thy face
shalt thou eat bread. First hearing
that story, I’d bled for Adam.
I bump into an acquaintance and begin to apologise.
‘Taking a break,
Be hard at it tomorrow.’
Puritan me, so afraid of Paradise.

Anaxagoras the sage
(a century before Plato) mulled it over
on a street like this in Athens.
First question: Why are you here on earth?
Answer: To behold.
No excuses called for.
Contemplation. Seeing. Fierce and intense.

This majesty. This fullness.
Does it all foreshadow another Eden?
The air is laden with yearning.
I can’t say for what and I can’t be silent either.
Rejoice. Rejoice.
To attest the gift of a day.
To saunter and gaze. To own the world.

Michael O’Siadhail, Collected Poems, Bloodaxe, 2013, 306–307.

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