When I asked my Dad about Warrenpoint
he said it was where folks gave up
grouse shooting and pheasant hunting for Lent,
where boys tongued it home with blackened mouths
after sucking the leaves of the aniseed bush
in the church grounds,
where once, at the dock dance, his sister
made him get back on the ferry without looking round
in case he would see his dead ringer.
She had given him, but not him, a jitterbug earlier,
her fright at the southern accent you could cut
and the look in his gamey eye.
She told Dad that he was the better looking, and she lied.
Still, it was best for the girls of two nations
that neither of them died.
Far from the astronomers and the counsellors,
the princess gathers her most loyal courtiers
to the safe landing-place for underlings.
‘If we arrange ourselves like this’, she says,
bending her supple back to reveal the lemon suns,
‘we will survive the collapse of everything we know.’
Her maids try the pose, decide it’s surprisingly comfortable.
‘In the coming times there will be travellers
who’ll look from their windows past the subtle greens
stunned by our parade of brightest yellow.
Rape they will say, knowingly, as the word turns
into something like oil on their tongue.’
The rose that leaves fat hips after the bloom
is not the rose the gardener loves to love
until her thrift-reared neighbour from the north
helps her harvest them for rose-hip syrup.
Good for colds, for any ailments of the blood,
to rub on creaky joints and boost the bowels.
You’ll have the old women in when they hear
that you’ve sugared your hips, she’s told.
The gardener, who knows how these things go,
is sure that they’d prefer to wet their lips.
When all this is over
I plan to go north
by unapproved roads
where sniper signs rust on the trees.
I will cross the border
over and back
several times to see how it feels.
I will dance the pig’s dyke
and taste mountain mayflower
on the breeze.
Near under-fished lakes
I will hear a blood-pause
in the reach of the night
when every word used for batter
and crisis will cruise with the ease
of what runs right through us,
when the shift and fill
of my own dear cells
is all they will tell as they breathe.
And out through the lanes
I will lie in my form
in overgrown fields
not a chopper in sight,
when they say it is safe
and the weather agrees.