Walking the Marches

Walking the Marches CoverSalmon Publishing 1990

In and Out of Derry
The Donegal mountains, sit out there

blue, blunt heaps of lignite, sad hinterland
to a burning city; and he heavy stone walls
and houses, shops and factories, fronts erased,
sag into the bog-ground while light title-deeds
change hands in the mute communion of commerce.
The city’s odd shop-keepers, sour and mean enough,
clang their rat-trap tills and keep the doors guarded:
for there are those who disregard limb and life,
who blast and bomb with red-eyed, mad-dog malice;
then again there are those who disregard even that,
who live only for profit and tomorrow’s gain.
If things were different there’s be no buts but
life goes on, has, and somehow always will,
despite the bombs and assassinations.
We remain successful in ignoring these things
And carry on forming – from the old twin cultures –
Some new kind of human resistance and bloody-minded calmness
In a hundred years it will warrant a paragraph
in some history book; the common people they’ll call us
(our fathers, they’ll note, paid a shilling for a rat
and ate quartered dogs to live) and they’ll not know
or not reckon the fear in pubs, in shops,
the daily bumping over ramps, the body-searches,
the tension of fire-sirens singing in darkness.


From Grainan of Aileach to Derry – 21 December

Like champagne, not long opened, the bound stars
stir behind furred ice. Storms are fermenting
up in the artic. There’s a rawness now
in the air, and word of sleet and snowstorms
pervades the streets. On ranked Christmas trees
lights flash and are gone and in those many
little interludes hope flickers: or say, rather,
that fear is bestirred; and then the lights rekindle.
At its furthest limit the winter sun
Stiffens into stillness. Time hesitates.
Silence wraps itself about the rage and roar
of all those last minute gettings and baggings.
All breathing ceases in this dark confrontation
of all the earth’s bright days and all dark nights.