Moy Sand and Gravel: Poemsby Paul Muldoon
Paul Muldoon's ninth collection of poems, his first since Hay (1998), finds him working a rich vein that extends from the rivery, apple-heavy County Armagh of the 1950s, in which he was brought up, to suburban New Jersey, on the banks of a canal dug by Irish navvies, where he now lives. Grounded, glistening, as gritty as they are graceful, these poems seem/i>
Paul Muldoon's ninth collection of poems, his first since Hay (1998), finds him working a rich vein that extends from the rivery, apple-heavy County Armagh of the 1950s, in which he was brought up, to suburban New Jersey, on the banks of a canal dug by Irish navvies, where he now lives. Grounded, glistening, as gritty as they are graceful, these poems seem capable of taking in almost anything, and anybody, be it a Tuareg glimpsed on the Irish border, Bessie Smith, Marilyn Monroe, Queen Elizabeth I, a hunted hare, William Tell, William Butler Yeats, Sitting Bull, Ted Hughes, an otter, a fox, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Joscelyne, un unearthed pit pony, a loaf of bread, an outhouse, a killdeer, Oscar Wilde, or a flock of redknots. At the heart of the book is an elegy for a miscarried child, and that elegiac tone predominates, particularly in the elegant remaking of Yeats's "A Prayer for My Daughter" with which the book concludes, where a welter of traffic signs and slogans, along with the spirits of admen, hardware storekeepers, flimflammers, fixers, and other forebears, are borne along by a hurricane-swollen canal, and private grief coincides with some of the gravest matter of our age.
Moy Sand and Gravel is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
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Moy Sand and Gravel
By Paul Muldoon
Farrar, Straus and GirouxCopyright © 2002 Paul Muldoon
All rights reserved.
With my back to the wall
and a foot in the door
and my shoulder to the wheel
I would drive through Seskinore.
With an ear to the ground
and my neck on the block
I would tend to my wound
in Belleek and Bellanaleck.
With a toe in the water
and a nose for trouble
and an eye to the future
I would drive through Derryfubble
and Dunnamanagh and Ballynascreen,
keeping that wound green.
When we came to the customs post at Aughnacloy, as at Cullaville or
I was holding my breath
as if I might yet again be about to go
underwater ... The fortieth
anniversary of 1916 had somehow fizzled out, the New Year's Eve attack
on Brookeborough ending in the deaths
of O'Hanlon and South, while Dev was likely to bring back
internment without trial ... As we drew
level with the leveled shack
I was met by another black-coated, long fellow, though he wore a sky-blue
winding-cloth or scarf
wrapped round his mouth and nose, leaving only a slit for him to peer
"In the late fifties I was looking for a place," he nestled his coffee cup on its
and turned to me, thirty years later, in Rotterdam ...
"An ancestral place ... A place my ancestors knew as Scairbh
na gCaorach." "Scairbh na gCaorach," I chewed on my foul madams,
"is now better known as 'Emyvale'
though the Irish name means 'the sheep-steeps' or 'the rampart of rams.'"
"'Rampart of rams?' That makes sense. It was the image of an outcrop of
with a particularly sheer
drop that my ancestors, the 'people of the veil,'
held before them as they drove their flocks from tier to tier
through Algeria, Mali, and Libya all the way up to Armagh, Monaghan, and
with — you'll like this — a total disregard for any frontier."
"Patrick Regan?" A black-coated R.U.C. man was unwrapping a scarf from
and flicking back and forth from my uncle's license to his face.
"Have you any news of young Sean South?
The last I heard he was suffering from a bad case
of lead poisoning. Maybe he's changed his name to Gone West?"
I knew rightly he could trace
us by way of that bottle of Redbreast
under my seat, that carton of Players, that bullion chest of butter.
I knew rightly we'd fail each and every test
they might be preparing behind the heavy iron shutters
even now being raised aloft
by men carrying belt saws and blowtorches and bolt cutters.
As he turned to me again, thirty years later in Rotterdam, the Tuareg doffed
his sky-blue scarf. "Back in those days I saw no risk
in sleeping under hedges. As a matter of fact I preferred a thorn hedge to a
because — you'll like this — it reminded me of the tamarisks
along the salt route into Timbuktu."
He crossed his forearms lightly under his armpits as if he might be about
himself, then smiled as he handed me the sky-blue
winding-cloth and a clunking water gourd.
"It had been my understanding that Scairbh na gCaorach meant 'the
crossing of ewes'
for scairbh means not 'a ledge' but 'a ford' or, more specifically, 'a
And he immediately set off at a jog trot down an unapproved road
near Aughnacloy or Swanlinbar or Lifford.
"It had always been my sense," I hear him still, "that the goat fades into the
and the spur fades into the flank
and the fastness fades into no fixed abode
and the Black Pig's Dyke fades into the piggy bank
and your Hams fade into your Japheths
and the point fades into the point-blank
and the Cristal fades into the crystal meths
where the ends somehow begin to fade into the means
and the sheugh fades into the shibboleth
and the timbre fades into the tambourine
and the quiddity fades into the quid pro quo
and — you'll like this, I know — the bourne fades into the boreen."
MOY SAND AND GRAVEL
To come out of the Olympic Cinema and be taken aback
by how, in the time it took a dolly to travel
along its little track
to the point where two movie stars' heads
had come together smackety-smack
and their kiss filled the whole screen,
those two great towers directly across the road
at Moy Sand and Gravel
had already washed, at least once, what had flowed
or been dredged from the Blackwater's bed
and were washing it again, load by load,
as if washing might make it clean.
If and when I did look up, the sky over the Moy was the very same
as the slow lift
of steam-smoke over the seam
of manure on a midwinter morning. I noticed the splash of red lead
on my left boot as again and again I would bend
my knee and bury my head in the rich
black earth the way an ostrich
was rumored to bury its head. My hands were blue
with cold. Again and again I would bend
to my left and lift
by one handle a creel of potatoes — King Edwards, gray as lead —
mined from what would surely seem
to any nine- or ten-year-old an inexhaustible seam.
My father wore a bag-apron that read, in capital letters, RICH.
My own capital idea, meanwhile, had sunk like a lead
balloon. "Blow all you like," my father turned on me. "Talk till you're blue
in the face. I won't let you take a lift
from the Monk. Blow all you like. I won't bend."
The Monk had spent twenty-odd years as a priest in South Bend,
his face priest-smooth except for a deep seam
in his left cheek. Fred Grew said something strange about how he liked to
his shirttail." Jack Grimley chipped in with how he was "ostrich-
sized" because he once lent Joe Corr a book called Little Boy Blue.
When Fred Grew remarked on his having "no lead
in his pencil," I heard myself say, cool as cool, "I think you've all been
At which the RICHARDSON'S TWO-SWARD suddenly began to unbend
in that distinctive pale blue
lettering as the seam
of his bag-apron unstitched itself and my father turned on me again:
all right. If you think, after that, I'd let the Monk give you a lift
into the Moy to see Montgomery bloody Clift
you've another think coming. I'll give him two barrels full of twelve-gauge
if he comes anywhere near you. Bloody popinjay. Peacock. Ostrich."
All I could think of was how the Monk was now no more likely to show me
how to bend
that note on the guitar — "like opening a seam
straight into your heart" — when he played Bessie Smith's "Cold in Hand
than an ostrich to bend
its lead-plumed wings and, with its two-toed foot, rip out the horizon seam
and lift off, somehow, into the blue.
He sucked, he'll have you know,
the telltale sixth toe
of a woman who looked like a young Marilyn Monroe,
her hubby getting a little stroppy
when he found them there in the back of that old jalopy.
Other papers please copy.
When he veered into the mirror to fix his collar stud
he heard the whinny
of a stallion at stud,
saw the egg-yellow gloss in the coat of a young ass or hinny
or a pit pony's glossy forelock
not unlike his own. A stable lad had already tried to pick
on his near hind hoof. All spick-
and-span then, turned out in the yard,
with the prepuce
of his yard
an unprepossessing puce,
he knew he'd have to buck
of these stud collars, ordered from Sears Roebuck
at year's end
by one or other of his American "aunts,"
knew he'd have to surmount
the twits and taunts
of the stable lad who'd watched him mount
the dais, dressed to the nines,
to take the prize for Geography. "You can't tell, I'll own,
the Pennines from the Apennines,
you little shit-your-knickers,"
he heard the pit pony vet
him over his own shoulder, his voice now full-blown,
now fading into the velvet
among the other snorts and snickers.
A COLLEGELANDS CATECHISM
Which is known as the "Orchard County"?
Which as the "Garden State"?
Which captain of the Bounty
was set adrift by his mate?
Who cooked and ate an omelette
midway across Niagara Falls?
Where did Setanta get
those magical hurley balls
he ram-stammed down the throat
of the blacksmith's hound?
Why would a Greek philosopher of note
refuse to be bound
by convention but live in a tub
from which he might overhear,
as he went to rub
an apple on his sleeve, the mutineers
plotting to seize the Maid of the Mist
while it was still half able to forge
ahead and make half a fist
of crossing the Niagara gorge,
the tub in which he might light a stove
and fold the beaten
eggs into themselves? Who unearthed the egg-trove?
And who, having eaten
the omelette, would marvel at how the Mounties
had so quickly closed in on him, late
of the "Orchard County"
by way of the "Garden State"?
That Boxing Day morning, I would hear the familiar, far-off gowls and
over Keenaghan and Aughanlig
of a pack of beagles, old dogs disinclined to chase a car suddenly quite
themselves, pups coming helter-skelter
across the plowlands with all the chutzpah of veterans
of the trenches, their slate-grays, cinnamons, liver-browns, lemons, rusts,
turning and twisting, unseen, across the fields,
their gowls and guiders turning and twisting after the twists and turns
of the great hare who had just now sauntered into the yard where I stood
astride my new Raleigh cycle,
his demeanor somewhat louche, somewhat lackadaisical
under the circumstances, what with him standing on tiptoe
as if to mimic me, standing almost as tall as I, looking as if he might for a
himself in my place, thinking better of it, sloping off behind the lorry bed.
He opens the scullery door, and a sudden rush
of wind, as raw as raw,
brushes past him as he himself will brush
past the stacks of straw
that stood in earlier for Crow
or Comanche tepees hung with scalps
but tonight pass muster, row upon row,
for the foothills of the Alps.
He opens the door of the peeling shed
just as one of the apple peelers —
one of almost a score
of red-cheeked men who pare
the red-cheeked apples for a few spare
shillings — mutters something about "bloodshed"
and the "peelers."
The red-cheeked men put down their knives
at one and the same
moment. All but his father, who somehow connives
to close one eye as if taking aim
or holding back a tear,
and shoots him a glance
he might take, as it whizzes past his ear,
for another Crow, or Comanche, lance
hurled through the Tilley-lit
gloom of the peeling shed,
were he not to hear what must be an apple split
above his head.
Excerpted from Moy Sand and Gravel by Paul Muldoon. Copyright © 2002 Paul Muldoon. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Paul Muldoon is the author of eight previous books of poetry. He teaches at Princeton University and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford.
Paul Muldoon is the author of eleven books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Moy Sand and Gravel (FSG, 2002) and, most recently, Maggot (FSG, 2010). He is the Howard G. B. Clark University Professor at Princeton.
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I love it! Here is an Application. <p> Name- Berry Wind <p> Appearance- Has a Ocelot skin but is wearing iron boots and a chain meal cheasplate with a stone sword from the cheasts. <p> Does- teams up with her and guves her anither chain meal cheastplte, leather boots, and a stone sword also some chicken.
This was a stressful moment for Typh. Why had she signed up for this? Are bragging rights worth dying for? She put her hood on her squared head as a villager walked stiffly over to her and said, "good luck, you'll need it." And waddled off, smirking. A guy with a face of a red creeper sat next to her. "Go away." Typh tried to shoo him off, but he sat closer. "Hope ya win." Whatever he was trying to do, won't work on Typh. But she sensed he wasn't trying to lure her into something. Just pure friendliness. She started to squeak a "thanks", but was cut off. She braced herself as she teleports into her spot on the arena. THE SURVIVAL GAMES. She gave herself a small pep talk: "come on now, Typh. If you lose, you die. If you win, you get a reward." She heard the clicking of pistons as the walls around her lowered. She got herself ready for a sprint... "3...2.....1!" It happened too fast. She started late, and all the other were already at the chests. By the time she got there, all there was left inside was a... single... wheat. She looked through the other chests in the midst of the bloodbath. She kicked at the chest. She was sure to lose now.
What a wonderful feast!