Patagonia by Kate Clanchy

I feel a mixture of sadness and happiness, for reasons I cannot quite explain. There is that heavy feeling I can’t name, sitting quietly inside my chest. I have said to myself, the other night, how I could’ve been so happy except that a certain sense of wistfulness overcomes everything. And then before I could identify what is that something amiss, it has already passed me by. I am left without the ability to speak, so. Instead, here, a poem in my hands.

Patagonia
Kate Clanchy

I said perhaps Patagonia, and pictured
a peninsula, wide enough
for a couple of ladderback chairs
to wobble on at high tide. I thought

of us in breathless cold, facing
a horizon round as a coin, looped
in a cat’s cradle strung by gulls
from sea to sun. I planned to wait

till the waves had bored themselves
to sleep, till the last clinging barnacles,
growing worried in the hush, had
paddled off in tiny coracles, till

those restless birds, your actor’s hands,
had dropped slack into your lap,
until you’d turned, at last, to me.
When I spoke of Patagonia, I meant

skies all empty aching blue. I meant
years. I meant all of them with you.

3 Comments

  1. I agree there is something haunting and strange about this poem which leaves the feeling that more is hinted than actually stated. I had to memorize it for a pubic recital once and I remember it meeting with a mixture of enthusiastic acceptance and incomprehension.

  2. Maybe a German translation attempt is intersting, the languages fit stunning!!!
    Patagonia

    I said perhaps Patagonia, and pictured a peninsula, wide enough for a couple of ladderback chairs to wobble on at high tide. I thought

    Ich sagte vielleicht Patagonien, und imaginierte

    eine Halb-Insel, weit genug

    für ein Paar von Leder-Lehnen-Sesseln

    um drauf zu wobbeln bei Flut. Ich dachte

    of us in breathless cold, facing a horizon round as a coin, looped in a cat’s cradle strung by gulls from sea to sun. I planned to wait

    an uns in atemloser Kälte,

    Blicken einen Horizont rund wie eine Münze, eingerollt

    in einen Katzen-Korb, geschnürt von Möwen

    von See zu Sonn.’ I plante zu warten

    till the waves had bored themselves to sleep, till the last clinging barnacles, growing worried in the hush, had paddled off in tiny coracles, till

    bis die Wellen sich gelangweilt hatten

    zu schlafen, bis die letzten klebenden Kletten

    besorgt gewachsen waren im Gebüsch, bis sie

    weg-gepaddelt sind in kleinen Korallchen, bis

    those restless birds, your actor’s hands, had dropped slack into your lap, until you’d turned, at last, to me. When I spoke of Patagonia, I meant

    diese ruhelosen Vögel, Deiner Puppen Hände

    Asche in Deine Schoß fallen ließen

    bis du zuletzt zu mir kehrtest.

    When ich von Patagonien sprach, meinte ich

    skies all empty aching blue. I meant years. I meant all of them with you.

    Ganz leere Himmel, von schmerzendem Blau, ich meinte

    Jahre, Ich meinte all von Ihnen mit Dir!

  3. I do like this poem having read it many times in an attempt at memorising it. There is an “acheing” strangeness about it that appeals to me. I am at a loss to determine what it is all about although it seems to hint in some way and obliquely, at Love.

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