The Old Country

Vona Groarke

I came out of that country
with one suitcase
crammed with newspaper,
seeds in every fold.

No. That’s not it.

No seeds and no newspaper.
My suitcase was full of snow
and the shadow of snow

which is another way of saying
it was full of lies.

I had been there for years,
whole months of them.

And then, just like that,
words stopped calling on me,
street signs flipped inside out.

My neighbors swopped faces.
The blue door was, by nightfall,
paler blue. On clean days, hail
pockmarked the pillows.

I try not to picture it.

Or to calculate heartbeats, blood I bled,
rooms undressed, ways of waking up,
ounces in an ounce of love.

I am scattering ink-white ashes as I write.

Sometimes I think you live a day
and it passes through you
like a ghost on a landing

and sometimes I think
there is no landing
and the ghost cannot be me.

Vona Groarke is author of seven collections of poetry, most recently X and Selected Poems, awarded the Pigott Prize for the best Irish book of poetry in 2016. Her book-length essay Four Sides Full was also published that year. She is a senior lecturer in poetry at the University of Manchester and one oft he 2018-2019 Fellows at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Originally published:
October 1, 2018


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