This evening I have spent
in the Irishwoman’s room.
A fire shared is a fire cheaper.

A twelvemonth since
I knew her not at all.
Our hearths were crowded then
but now it is fitting
that one of them bides cold.
A fire shared is a fire cheaper by far.

She has enough English now
for January tales
of our slavering bargeist
which stalks these dark flagged yards
intent on the taking of children.
She would not have understood a year ago.

A year ago her English was just enough
for blessing or cursing,
to ask the price of bread
or direction to a pump.
But now a fire shared
is a fine instructive tutor.

She has enough English now
to match my bargeists and goblins
with pookas and suchlike,
and I find I have learned what these are,
from many a night
spent sharing and cheapening fire.

A twelvemonth ago I would not have known
the Irish for ‘sorrow’, ‘cholera’, ‘children’,
or who stood by me at the same wide grave-mouth
as we wept after each of our fashions.
But now I know these things,
which are things I have learned
in the school of the ruined hearth,
which is held in both our rooms,
where a fire shared
is the cheapest fire of all.

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