Droighneach II: Harvest

High summer heat. Out here, the pressure’s palpable.
Sun-shimmer on the wheat, and yet we’re worrying
About the weather, praying it’s possible,
To keep running hell-for-leather with harvesting.

The tractors creep beside combines crawling ceaselessly.
Night brings no sleep for now; we’re hauling heavyweight
Trailers gorged with golden grain, and checking constantly
For news of rain; the threat we don’t care to contemplate.

Days drag, dredged in dust and diesel fumes. We’re wondering
If we’ve edged ahead. The work consumes us utterly.
From dawn to dew the big rigs roll through, thundering
Scorn at forecasts and fatigue. The heat builds brutally.

One last load. Black battlements brood high overhead.
On the road, racing back beneath a sky suspended
Like an executioner’s axe; throbbing thunderheads
Prepare to strike. The first cracks come. Dark, distended

Clouds tear open; an electric ecstasy
Ignites the bristling air too late: the storm’s defeated –
The fields stand silent; tyre-tracks the only legacy
We’ve left. The land exhales. Another crop completed.


I’m not going to let the droighneach beat me. Still tricky as all hell, but at least I managed five stanzas this time! My admiration for Tom and Ina, who’ve got this thing well and truly nailed, knows no bounds. Wishing you all a splendid weekend. N.

4 thoughts on “Droighneach II: Harvest

  1. How could I get so far behind, Nick? Wow! You are truly a craft master. I have been on a work jag, a state you know well, and need to get retired really and not keep taking contracts. This is wonderful!
    The Droighneach is not easy to write, and I want to try some other old Celtic forms, but what a whirling and dancing of language it creates! This looks to me that you’ve got the form down, and you’re certainly ahead of where I’m at. I’ve only written one, and that took basically full-time work for way too long. If I got one stanza a day written I was overjoyed, and I have no idea how many crossed out lines of nothing fill the notebook I used.
    This language is magnificent:
    One last load. Black battlements brood high overhead.
    On the road, racing back beneath a sky suspended
    Like an executioner’s axe; throbbing thunderheads
    Prepare to strike. The first cracks come.
    It sounds powerful too when I read it outloud. I remember when I read your first sestina. I did not decide you were truly a poet as a result of your sonnets, although your skill with the sonnet form struck me right away. It was that sestina and an earlier poem where your language did not say, as in your latest sonnet, by pulsed meanings out of images of the countryside, a river and a wood.
    I think you must be a little like I am as a poet. When the form is difficult the task of writing deepens what I am writing, making it more like the poetry I would like to write.
    This is a major accomplishment, Nick. Absolutely a major accomplishment. I am working on a sonnet, having no luck getting it done, right now. When I get it done I’m going to go Celtic again.

    • You’re very kind, Tom – and praise from such a fine poet as you means a tremendous amount, it truly does. You’ve read me right here; the more complex the form, the more every word has to be weighed and sifted, the deeper into it I get – and, I hope, the cleaner and sharper the result. In my working life, I’m always writing to a brief and deadline, so when I write for myself, I’m always torn between a desire to cut loose and dip my pen in the old purple ink, and a natural instinct (honed by 20 years as a pro) to keep it tight and grounded. I hope I’ve got the balance about right here. I shall revisit the droighneach, I’m sure – as I hope you will. Yours was my inspiration, so this piece belongs to you as much as it does to me. N.

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