In this poem about a painting by Jack Yeats, the brother of William Butler Yeats, landscape is both inside and out. I love the way Linda Aldrich takes us out of our own individual hubbub, and deeper into a world that is both seen and imagined, is both inner and outer. The figure in the painting both there and not there, losing himself in thought or in simply being in the presence of the landscape– “the moist green,” she says, “the lush magma of paint.”

Tir na nOg is the legendary land of youth, a mythological island, believed to be off the west coast of Ireland.

Betsy Sholl, Maine Arts Journal Poetry Editor

Editor’s note: To see the painting that inspired Linda Aldrich’s poem, click on the title.


In Tir na nOg

Jack Yeats, oil on canvas, 1936.


I’d like to think poetry is doing it, the far-off gaze

taking him out of the world or further into it,


looking at nothing and everything at once,

how when absorbed, time expands the moment,


puts him where he is and not there at all,

as he disappears into the clean photosynthesis


of a sunny day—the ocean, the boats, the people

on shore, the grass growing over and around him.


I know this can happen, how something catches us

up into the light of all that transpires, the moist green


of summer, the ocean’s glint, the words before words,

that first buzz fit of love in the heart. He does seem


happy, our young man, in this lush magma of paint,

and does he hold a book of color sketches, and so rises


from his own palette, from the center of his own dancing

landscape, a reddish smile, the dark flash of his eyes?


We see how young he is and are reminded of ourselves

when we knew how to begin, how to find our way back


into the beauty of making. The music, too, we remember,

though we must be still as moss to hear it.