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From: Vol.07 N.02 – Writing in the Pause

Coming and Going

by Ian Davidson


Cuckoo sounds


swallows skim trees


far out at sea waves curl


Crests hanging


Addicted to restriction

in love with lockdown

I tap my arm say, later

as along the way

lambs slither into the world

and begin breathing


The colours of sheep


Wild blue sheep come

down from the commonage

for the summer. Left on rough

pasture at the coast and

easily startled they turn

red and green as

marks of ownership

are slowly added until

they are all colour and

no sheep remains.


In the heat of summer their

heavy coats are worn off the

shoulder or left to hang

on ancient trees and free

of fleece their branding

temporarily absent

the sheep in just their skin

admire themselves

in rivers and pools

or stare deep into

each other’s eyes


The song of the hen



With smart red comb and

double yolk the hen can

clear rough ground

and lay eggs, some things

come in packages, the hens

have no fear

a hen can fold her wings and

legs and flatten

as in spatchcock to bathe

in the thin dust that rises


A hen is like a

dinosaur but smarter


Sheet music


The sheet flaps

demanding entry


behind the sheet

the sky a startling blue


Life is like that the

flap of the sheet only

the beginning the

blue sky beckons

the land an

unsolved mystery


The song of the tractor


Coming and going

between holdings,

land defined by

acts of survey and

distribution, acts to

establish an exact price


The song of the landworker


Leaving behind without a

backward glance

our slow walk across

a yard or sodden field

full buckets banging

on our knees

or the weight of

a sack of feed

on our shoulders


Land is not a parcel

passed from hand to hand.

Land is not revealed

with each torn layer.

There is no final prize

on which to feast your eyes.


Land lives in fields,

different every day.



Land gives no guarantees

but springs eternally

clouds bubble up

rain spits, weeds

wither and die

there is nothing like

knowing a

field for ever

in its unreliability


The song of the plasterer



We should have stayed home

and honed language like a

knife blade or a chisel

or given it the weight

of a sledge, or loaded it

onto a hawk to even out

a wall gone haywire,

or spread it so thin that

every grain of sand

impeded the even stroke

where words have a

gritty resistance

between the thin metal blade

and the rough

concrete background


In the wilderness of

teaching and administration,

held back from the

precipitous edge of


kept in security and distraction,

tools rust


No way out


The way of the world

is not the highway to the east

but the boreen

at the side of the house that

peters out in the bog


Where John Clare went crazy


Where Patrick Kavanagh cut and ran


Kittens taken too young

become natural born killers

their crazy dichromatic eyes.

like little birds that collect

along the fence,

like clouds on the horizon,

the quad cruising

the boundaries.


Language will let you down

its ponderous diction

its second-rate facility

a little pension

scraped from the sides

of permanent employment

the privileges that

steal clear speech have

taken the motor from your mouth

taken words and emulsified them

weakened your ready wit

left to pontificate to

an empty room on texts

nobody knows or cares about


The infinite hollows of an

internal life coming to nothing,

things echoing as in caverns

of the mind and body.


On land, language

must take its turn.


Song of Itself


So language is a virus so,

readily transmitted and

you is the host

and the orders of syntax

conceal the fertile chaos

of the word, planted

like an idea,

and in the headlong rush

to fill a sentence

words get forgotten

the word and what it is


Words must be

king and queen,

at the points where

farms meet and

fences transmit lambs

looking for fresh pasture

and grass as green as

words that emerge

from the mouths of

babes and weanlings.

Published: October 2020
Ian Davidson

Ian Davidson’s most recent poetry publications are On the Way to Work (Shearsman 2017) and Gateshead and Back (Crater 2018). Work forthcoming includes From a Council House in Connacht (Oystercatcher) and The Matter of the Heart (New Dublin Press). Brought up in Wales he now lives on a smallholding in Ireland and is Professor of Poetry at UCD.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.