Thoor Ballylee by Judy Longley

1st place winner of the Streetlight 2017 Poetry Contest

Thoor Ballylee

Home of W.B. Yeats

Massive stone, empty air, the river’s
cool breath, a space the poet enters.
Image stacked upon image reveals
his world, not yet a poem but a current
stirred by starlings sailing from oak
to oak or a riverbed that shapes the flow
of water. The scratch of his pen
brings cows to amble across the page,
black-and-white sway of bellies,
breath forming ghosts, extinguished
when muzzles dip into water.
Kestrels stir upon a ledge,
chicks pulsing with hunger
the castle’s raucous heart.
A parent bird rips apart a mouse,
each morsel a wafer or a word
tasting of dark corners, skitter
of small feet. In the flicker
of candlelight the poet scrawls on,
glances at the ceiling where stenciled stars
recall nebulous layers that glitter
above the tower, a universe
unfolding it’s complex, random flower.
Moons, stars, planets, suns
we project language upon, brothers
spiraling heavenward, who silently bear
our myths, share the dust from which we’re born.


Judy Longley
Judy Longley of Charlottesville, Virginia, has published four books of poetry. Her poems appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. She served as poetry editor for Iris: A Journal About Women, (University of Virginia), and Tough Times Companion (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities).

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