R.J. Van Zandt


                      (to Wallace Stevens)

Her brilliant hand
     swings like a comet
Through the neon-glazed sunset
     of the ice cream parlour.

She bends
     in an apron of wrinkled stars
Past globes of angry cherries
     and scoops
Three moons of jade,
In their slow and creamy

And all her kingdom
     is this sacrifice
And all the world
     her dipping

While stiff and golden straws
     blast from their jars
Like unbloomed stems.


            County Offaly, Ireland 1947
                    (to Seamus Rafferty)

It is midnight.
While the children of Offaly sleep
In the warmth of Irish wool,
A mother awakes to the sound of a shovel
Digging in a field miles from town.
A lantern perches on a pile of turf.
In a strip of lime
Cold as moonlight
A priest, head bowed
Slowly fingers a rosary.
Beside him, the sexton plants his shovel
And slowly lowers a small wooden box
Into the moist soil.
What treasure is buried so secretly
So late, so darkly?

Dead too early for the holy ceremony
Of water,
The clergy has pronounced
The doors of heaven shut
For those unblessed.
Beyond the walls of the true faith
Not granted an occasion for their own sin,
We are told
They are stained by generations
Of Adamís flesh.
Buried among their kind,
They will not defile the ground
Of the purified.
They remain forever paused in a motherís memory.

We see a family of an evening
Gathered round a peat fire.
In the flutter of flames
Each comes to possess
The image of a child

Rising ever so gracefully from the chimney,
Up from the cold earth
To the hearth of all love and forgiveness
Where the innocent bathe
In a warm baptism of light
Beyond the graves of frozen ritual.

R.J. Van Zandt

R.J. Van Zandt is a former Criminal Investigator/Deputy Commissioner and teacher of poetry who has spent many a grand time in Ireland enjoying Celtic wit and Irish eccentricity.



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