“The rider after dawn,” “The trees communicate” and “Brief meeting”

Poetry by Kieran Egan

“The rider after dawn,” “The trees communicate” and “Brief meeting”

The rider after dawn

Cantering after dawn along the Downs,

she pressed her knees and brought him to a walk,

then loosed the reins as if she’d lost her way.

He came to a standstill at the crossing paths.

Through woods to the river then up by Commons End, or

by Low Denton Holme and Netherby Mere, or

directly across their own land? —

any will serve as a path of escape

to her welcoming flat in Lisbon.

She rode at the sun, eyes closed —

yellow, orange, reddening at the base,

strange patterns, whorls, and pulsing daubs.

Her inner ear, and thighs around the horse,

informed her they were sloping down Frag hill.

The gray Georgian house she’d gained by marriage

would be visible below, if she’d looked.

D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day?

she sang to the horse, her best friend.

Aye, she kenned John and his local ilk

at the break, middle, and end of day;

as a rule, they were most eager,

and least adequate, at the end.

She has been too long among people

who have not travelled far from their homes.

The house holds her once sweet and fondly foolish husband,

who’s gambled away his money and drank away his charm,

now just a souring fool, with his long-curdled mother.

The enigmatic woman trots past the house,

dismounts, hugs the declined head and neck,

pats the muscled chestnut flank

and leads him toward the stables and the groom.

No calling back the lovely April of her youth, but

sturdy September’s cooling vigor leaves

a wealth of days to come. Her Mercedes ready

for the long drive south to Lisbon.

The trees communicate

Trees communicate through tangled roots.

They whisper, ‘She is coming again.

Look at her coat, her face.

It has not gone easy with her, and she expects

— you can feel it from her footfall —

it will continue much the same or worse.

‘This one — we have not seen him before;

mean-minded, like a feral knife.

He would carve us too

if we draw his attention; remain aloof

to avoid his bite upon our bark.

His feet turn as they fall, and could go anywhere.

‘The old couple come together, but apart, daily;

we knew their grandparents, know their grandchildren.

They are resigned to one another,

but you can feel her deeper resentment

as she sits bitter-eyed on this log, rehearsing

injustices in their stale sequence, branch by branch.

‘But here is the woman coming back.

Her coat is open; a lighter step says

things went better than she had expected;

not the earlier thrust of heels,

but still a hesitation, a shadow

holds her; it is well now, but next time?’

Their roots expand, entwine; it is not quite love.

Brief meeting

After dawn,

the carriage fugged with smoke, vodka,

and too many soldiers

resenting that he would not drink with them.

He’d smiled weakly, a propitiatory hand raised,

the other touching his fragile stomach.

No sympathetic eye, no answering smile.

At the train’s screeching stop, he stood,

edged along the crowded corridor,

uniformed officials checking papers,

to stand in the cold air when the door opened.

He moved back as men with string-tied cases,

women shouldering plastic bags,

pushed, awkwardly scrambling down the steps.

On the platform, head level with his waist,

a man in a once-good gray tweed suit

now worn and frayed, but clean,

looked up at him without expression.

A strong face, unsettling, and seemingly unsettled,

as though he knew everything about the traveler

and feared he was similarly seen and known.

They stood, held by each others’ eyes.

The train spat steam, the door slammed,

through the window each watched the other go,

messengers from gods delivering no message.

About the Author

Kieran Egan

Kieran Egan lives in Vancouver, Canada. His chapbook, ‘Among the branches,’ was published by Alfred Gustav Press, Vancouver, Canada. His first collection, Amplified Silence, was published in 2021 by Silver Bow Publishing, New Westminster, Canada. He has published poems widely in US, Canadian, and UK magazines. His first novel, a comic campus thriller, Tenure, is to be published by NeWest Press, Canada, in Sept. 2021.