The Approaches

By Harry Clifton b. 1952 Harry Clifton
A childless, futureless road
And then nothing. . . Is that it?
Or start believing in a God
Beyond the temporal limit

Of westering skies, wide, melancholy,
Uncut fields and paced-out walls
As we drive towards it slowly,
The house that has us both in thrall.

They are gone, now, the hours of light
It took to get here. Might-have-beens,
Lost wanderyears. But that's alright—
We are trading it in, the seen

For the experienced, the car keys
For the end of the journey,
When distances have lost their power
And the heart beats slower

In tomorrow's cold, a coming weather
One degree north of yesterday.
High latitudes—as they say,
There is nothing up here

But wind and silence, passing clouds,
Light diminished half a tone,
A dish left out all night for the gods
By morning turned to stone.

So take a right, go down two gears
And stay in second, where the church is
And the pig farm. Only the approaches
Are terrible, only the years,

The getting here, which takes forever.
A boy in tears, a barren crone
On a bicycle, a man alone—
They're waving. . . It's now or never

For the final self, I assume—
For the shape of the house
On the skyline, the release
Into childhood, and the coming home.

Source: Poetry (June 2008).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2008
 Harry  Clifton

Biography

Harry Clifton was born in Dublin and attended Blackrock College and University College, Dublin. His collection of poems, Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994-2004 (2007), won the Irish Times Poetry Now Award in 2008. His other honors include the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award and two Arts Council Bursaries in Literature. He is a member of Aosdána, the Irish artists’ association. Clifton is the author of the poetry pamphlet Null . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poems by Harry Clifton

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Religion

POET’S REGION Ireland

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.