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Ian Davidson

Ian Davidson’s most recent publications are From a Council House in Connacht (Oystercatcher 2021) and By Tiny Twisting Ways (Aquifer 2021). His New and Selected Poems were published by Shearsman in March 2022. He also writes about poetry, and recent essays have been published or are forthcoming on Diane di Prima, Lenore Kandel and Tom Pickard. His research articles and monographs follow a long term project on space and mobility in modern and contemporary writing. Ian Davidson works at UCD in Dublin, Ireland and lives on a small farm in County Mayo.

 



Lacemakers


Part 1


To the thin soil

and stony mountains

amongst scattered

crops and sheep

the gentry brought

samples of lace

from honeymoons or holidays

in Italy or France.


Equipped with bobbins

and cotton the tenants sat

hands dancing

to the rhythm

the patterns dictated

punctuated by shifting pins

making representations

of presence and absence

casting a wide net

lacing up the landscape

holes lacking origins,

like sheep strung out,

or broken rays of light

finding space in stone walls

illuminating spun threads

in a darkened room.


Lace, as much fresh air

as material,

or froth on the sea,

a kit for self-improvement,

fed to cottagers

instead of food or good land

exploiting the intricacy

of clever hands

and sharp eyes

squinting in the half dark.


Part 2


It is epiphany,

the lights of Christmas

go dark

in the hills where we work,

side by side, stitching rocks

to make a causeway

for animals to find shelter

across soil slowly filling with water

until like a sponge, giving out.


Figures of lace still

cover the linen ground,

holes are tunnels into the past,

a permeable membrane,

stuff you can walk straight through.


We work,

dragging an entanglement

unable to see clearly

the whole picture,

threads still loose

like twine from the van door

or wisps of hay

clinging to a hat.


Part 3


In the damp cottages and cabins

where lace was made

threads stayed soft.

No problem with

brittle cotton drying

in the sun

on the Atlantic seabord,

where work is always supple.


Lace falls like a cloud

its intricate design

constructed with tension,

always on the move,

spinning or hooked,

pulled and drawn tight

like a noose, around the necks

of those who could afford it.


Lace takes its place in a

countryside where cottagers

have their hands on the handles

of detonators that might

blow holes in an environment

to which they hold the means

of savior and destruction

and running through it all

the thin cotton like roots

that bind the surface

as the worn bobbins

passed from hand to hand

are a lullaby for a sleeping child

a step for the dance and

the rhythm of walking feet.