… poured a libation all around to the dead, first of milk and honey, then of sweet wine, thirdly of water, sprinkled with white barley meal. – Odyssey XI. 26-8, tr. Kline
Skirting the windblown lake, I climb the path
up to the Badger Bar, and watch my pint
settle to barley-gold, a head like seafoam.
Images converge, half-summoned. Meeting them
here one spring day. We had no children yet,
but watched their boys racket around the bar
and listened while Seamus read Fungus the Bogeyman
to the small girl wriggling on his knee.
Marie had on that necklace with the silver
pendant: it was a longship silhouette,
we recognised it from the cover of North.
What did we talk about? I can’t remember.
One day, I tell myself again, I’ll be here
at twilight when the landlord goes out back
to put down food inside that ring of stones
in the pub garden: see the badgers come
down the rocks, or through the undergrowth
from Rydal Mount next door. A whole tribe maybe,
old Brock in front, wading through the shadows;
stripes of moonlight white along his head,
body bulky as an old tweed coat –
just visible across the stony ground
for eyes enough accustomed to the dark.