John O'Donnell

The Lucas Planet No.33

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The Lucas Planet No. 33

                                             i.m. Seamus Heaney

 

I

Say first a sup of kerosene, poured deftly into the squat casing

at the base, and then a match scratched into action, held flare-headed,

steady-handed in the opened porthole, your other hand turning

the handle so that the wick rose like a cobra charmed to greet

the flame, the enamelled blackness of the chamber suddenly aglow

in its own solstice. The cover then snapped shut, the spring-hinge

bracket-clipped beneath the handlebars and you’re off,

a leg swung easy over the saddle, your wavering front beam

diminishing the evening lengthening between us until you disappear.

 

II

Then say another oil, a different kind of light:

sweet balm of chrism and the spear-tipped flames of candles,

white flowers hushing the room, and you in your good suit,

as ready as you can be for the journey, the ditches lined

with curious schoolchildren and stout policemen saluting as you pass

on your way north to where we lay you down between sycamore and ash,

low prayers and beak-twitter and murmured choked goodbyes,

and afterwards the hydraulic stutter of the digger,

its swung bucket a hero’s empty helmet, scooping up and filling in

the opened ground; a lifetime’s earth.

                                             

                                                  III

But now the way ahead is unlit, unapproved; no knowing

what may come hurtling without warning from the hedgerows,

oblivion in wait behind each trembling leaf, and nothing equal

to the darkness of this grief except perhaps the Lucas Planet No. 33,

the long-gone manufacturer’s proud boast emblazoned on the box it comes in:

We make light of our labours”, and for a moment the world is once more lit

by the power-surge of your grin, delighting in the pun, and crediting as well

the credo of all art: to make the effort made seem effortless while going

to the heart of what matters. Actual and emblem, this venerable bicycle-lamp;

sturdy, trustworthy, the heft of it a kind of grace, and this time I take off,

unsteadily; still sad, and fearful, yes: uncertain where I’m going

but gladdened by this ghost-light, the road before me brightening

in its occult and familiar gleam. Wheel-spin; spoke-song.

The consolation that what’s well-made endures, and shines on.

 

John ODonnell

 

 

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