We drove all night from Gortahawk
To make the border at dawn.
An RUC man eyed us down
With his rifle and stooped to talk
Of the rain we'd brought from Donegal.
We smiled compliantly and felt the whiff
Of scotch on his tongue.
His planter's eyes
Were as grey as the northern sky
Was cold and pale
Like the dumb eye that stared incandescently
From the barrel of that gun. To pass through
This dawn-humour was like a test.
We told him we were on our way to Newtonards.
"On what business?" We showed him the letter
From the consultant; it was of a personal nature.
Mucknish seemed so far away as he scanned
The fine-print of our lives and grasped
What for years we could only speak of with difficulty.
"Ah," he said, "we're talking infertility, so."
And the morning light shot through us
Like a passion, as if the unborn
That lived in our hope
Was stuck in his Ballymena throat
And he and the car and the air
Around us came to a full glottal stop.
The Birth of Language
Woden of the broom-cupboard
Hung upside-down and played
His latest trick. Impaled
On the shaft of a yard-brush,
He lifted the runes, screamed,
And cast them down.
For nine months he held us
Suspended in his silence. Only
His blood fell, cooling the ash-twigs.
My mother had little patience
For augurers and their silly games;
She complained about the mess,
The blood soaking the carpet
And the bugs brought in with the trees.
She said she couldn't sleep
With all the worry of sacrifices,
And conjuring with slips of wood.
Anyway, what was a 'futhorc'?
My father was a gleeman,
A poet of the third-hand,
Who could translate the daily papers
Into any script but our own.
On the tenth day we heard
The sea had breached the walls
Down on the Kent coast. I recall
My father held us both, crying, as we
Waited for the soldiers to move us out.