A Day of Warfare

On this day, my eyebrows seemed to thicken,

and mists hung lazily in the morning.

The pathways of logic were overgrown

with the grey dust fallen from empty days.

On this day, thoughts waited for some future

when they may fling sharp colours through the haze

to explode in the brightness of the day.

On this day, memories were dissolving

and time pulled on the harness of events.

Such luxury! where words are the only

comfort as the shrapnel flies its killing

course and savagery stalks distant streets.

The Dove Flies On

Clouds breaking on the horizon

like an invading army.

The sun, red-faced and furious,

blotted out by the boiling

black mass, but leaving whipping wheals

on fluffy clouds’ innocent skins.

We are abandoned to the moon,

white faced and indifferent,

to the storm that overwhelms,

to the winds that will topple stone

on to bone, to the deluge

and the endless beating of winds.

Put out to grass

The horse and cart trot by; we stop to look; 

She sees and lifts her hooves to demonstrate 

what we have lost. But she is just playing.

That’s all she has, now the rumble of tyres 

drowns out the shuffling clutter of sharp shoes 

in a cobbled yard and the lumpy lurch 

of cartwheels on a stony lane. The sun 

has set on heroic charges, stumbling 

marches across ploughed  fields and humping back breaking 

loads of coal through soot stained streets.

All that remains is the torpor of rest 

and some occasional outings of show.

Not so; the road is stained with the steaming

piles of fertile droppings telling their tale.

“Let our revenge be the laughter of our children”

Were you to look out to the hills 

as the day settles to a still 

absence of dead air,

when your rage no more may dare 

to tread the boards and roar its verse,

and you’ve wearied of the drums and the hearse,

you are deaf to the pipit’s pipe, 

to the fleeing curlew’s ripe 

lament, to the owl’s hoot in the shadows.

The morning marches through the meadows

have left no trace and the shape of justice 

is lost in the mists. You may kiss 

the ghosts of your fallen friends,

and flinch at the gifts that power lends 

your enemies. Yet this remains your epitaph – 

in wind swept streets, your children laugh.

The title is taken from the memorial, located at the entry to ‘Free Derry’, to the men from Derry who died in H block

Birthmark

It is no mistake

that we start out with a cry

to suck up the whole tragedy of life

with which our lungs inflate,

eyes clenched against the blinding light

framing an unknown future with rage.

The father is frightened,

the unexploded bomb in his arms

connecting a fuse to his sandbagged heart

that beats to burst through

a thin veneer of sanity.

And we are surprised

by murderous release and rapacious desire

by the pleasure of walls tumbling down

by the pain of touch on scorched skin.

A Cold Dry Spring

The bowl of cracked earth,

weeds littered across its nakedness

(as if drunken teenagers

had stalked off, all pride and terror,)

lay abandoned. The arid Spring

had drained the pool.

The rushes had collapsed

against each other and decayed

beyond memory.

Birds no longer paused

and chattered in their forest.

Their time had passed.

We walk past looking elsewhere

away from the untidiness

to where the skylark’s metallic

twisting pushes the sky upwards –

upwards to the buzzard’s mew

and the promise of rain in the cold grey skies.

The Corner

For a while, there is just the music,

the singers and the words tacking

in the wind, the consonants beating

on the soft down of vowels. The watch ticks

but the pockmarked road attracts no light

beneath the dazzle of young voices.

Distracted by a harvest of choices

flourishing in the midday sun, the slight

curve in the road passes unnoticed.

A cadence in a cloud makes them turn

to silence and solitude, where they learn

of minor keys, soft tears in the evening mist.