A Kite for Aibhín, after ‘L’Aquilone’
by Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912)
Air from another life and time and place,
Pale blue heavenly air is supporting
A white wing beating high against the breeze,
And yes, it is a kite! As when one afternoon
All of us there trooped out
Among the briar hedges and stripped thorn,
I take my stand again, halt opposite
Anahorish Hill to scan the blue,
Back in that field to launch our long-tailed comet.
And now it hovers, tugs, veers, dives askew,
Lifts itself, goes with the wind until
It rises to loud cheers from us below.
Rises, and my hand is like a spindle
Unspooling, the kite a thin-stemmed flower
Climbing and carrying, carrying farther, higher
The longing in the breast and planted feet
And gazing face and heart of the kite flier
Until string breaks and – separate, elate –
The kite takes off, itself alone, a windfall.
It isn’t important to know that Aibhín is Heaney’s new (at the time) granddaughter or to know the Italian poet or poem referenced in the title or anything about Anahorish Hill. I love the “separate, elate.” You hardly ever see the active form of elated, and it somehow soars in this poem. You can read more of his poems here.
When I read this poem, I thought of my brother, a lover of kites, who died at forty. So one poem inspires another.
Thinking of Peter
A week past the 29th anniversary of your death
I read Seamus Heaney’s poem about the kite, and
my first thought is to show it to you.
So I stumble again
into the hole
on this dim morning
of a day that promises
to be beautiful
without your presence
except for this faint ache
because you loved kites,
their unpredictable dialog
with the wind
transmitted to your hand.
That hand gone
and gone again
I reach for it.
Are these poems radically accessible? I hope so. Brash of me to put mine beside his? Probably, but his begat mine, so there you are.