Earth’s Black Chute, Cian Ferriter
Southword Editions, 2022 €6.00
Home and away
Some of these poems are celebrations of home life, but I was struck by how many remoter places are specifically named. References in epigraphs include Venice, the Hindu Kush, a hardware store in Missouri. Other locations emerge in the course of the poem. A garden shed reminds the poet of a tower block in East Berlin; the search for a missing woman starts at Lady’s Island.
The effect of this roaming is to draw the reader back to a home where the names have a familiar Heaneyesque richness: Cassidy’s top field, the front door at Crebawn, Hartigan’s Wood. In a telling line in ‘The Funeral’, mourners come from ‘as far as Derry’.
The poet’s attachment to these places is given context by some lovely, tender depictions of family life. ‘Limbo’ captures powerfully the parents’ long wait to hold their premature baby, and ‘Ark’ is an interestingly contrived imagining of a child out late at night in a biblical deluge. There are also benign but mysterious uncles like Jack, who (in ‘Last Rites’) ‘once gripped a man’s half-severed hands / while giving him last rites in Santiago.’
There are more severed hands in the horribly memorable ‘Team Photo’. The reader isn’t allowed to distance themselves from the Taliban’s barbarism:
Who now dresses with one arm?
Who held whom in place
as the blade came down?
There is a strong sense of connectedness that runs through these poems. ‘Silage’ begins as a graphic set of jungle images:
leeches stippling the belly
of a wounded hog.
It ends with:
you pitching silage
cattle heads straining through bars
in the place
you never left from
and I can’t get away from still.
These places are necessary, almost non-metaphorical elements of emotional journeys. In ‘West’ the poet is taken further west, ‘to where I had not been before’ — clearly a state of mind, though one that was located in the first line as ‘out past Belmullet’.
It seems to me that Cian Ferriter’s insights are rooted in a special understanding of place — above all, in the hills and fields of a particular part of Ireland.