Ireland visit 2012


Your tractor’s closed cab causes
streams of sweat in this short summer
that dries your dark neatly piled peat logs.
You’re home safe with your children,
after decades of driving Birmingham buses,
amongst your people, in your land, on your plot.

Ballinasloe ball
School graduation, boys in black tie, girls sparkling
in swishing dresses, adulthood’s edge.
Mixed fortunes await you,
some to stay, most to go
and only return when old.

Gullane’s hotel, Ballinasloe
We arrived just when Eire won its only gold.
You’re elated, pour your life story out.
You and your forebears built this, kept it, grew it,
but on the cusp of sale it crashed, dashing retirement.
So you stay, sustained by annual horse fairs,
graduations, and three funerals a week.

Where are the husbands of yesteryear?
Tall, slim, quiet, face unmade, hair grey
Softly enters the Donegal dining room,
Makes her lean breakfast of special bread.
Long bony ringless fingers caress her herbal teacup.

She rises, lifts her dishes, washes, dries,
Puts all away and leaves,
Later starts her wind-swept walk
Along peaty paths, all by herself.

Donegal woollen mill
Bright green board encloses a tribute to tweed.
Swathes of sweaters and scarves,
Stacks of hats, racks of jackets
T-shirts printed with Guinness tributes
Woven bags bleating, “Re-ewes me”.
At last the till rings.

If you ever go across the sea to Ireland
Bundoran’s not the place to stop for tea.
It’s just as bad as Blackpool or as Clacton.
I wouldn’t even stop there for a wee.

Donegal drives
Immense rolling hills, cliffs rearing from restless sea,
Blood-red fuchsia hedges line wandering lanes,
And we arrive, knowing nothing.
She asks, “Where to next?” We reply, “Ulster”
She objects, “You’re already there!”
Embarrassment. Later, I learn of
Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal,
Shorn off, rump reasserted as Ulster
By Unionists – any name but Ireland,
Yet another ever present dividing sign,
Where both sides specialise in sects.

Looking down in Derry
We circle the town along the walls
And then, on the right, that famous hall,
Apprentice Boys, looks down, deep down
On the pallid rows of a sad Bogside,
Hopeless housing from which emerges
Despairing youth, in sullen surges,
No more guns, but petrol bombs in hand,
To fight for a future they don’t understand.

The Sandy Row swing
By Sandy Row she swings her hips, before murals
Proclaiming fierce undying loyalty
Union Jacks, thanks to Windsor,
Ulster flags’ red hand proclaiming
No surrender, we’re tenth generation here.
We’ll never submit to Catholic rule.

A builder turns, transfixed by
Her high breasted, tight-sweatered sway,
Looks at his mate,
Exchanges words and smirks.
Life goes on - 
Temporary peace

Giant’s Causeway
Hexagonal legend,
Extraordinary basalt,
Marvel to millions,
Crawling, clambering.
A rocky rendezvous for a
Wondering world.

Ulster Census 2021
In six counties, forms were completed, computer-counted,
confirmed forecasts, a clear Catholic majority.
Protestants aged or left, Catholics stayed, bred faster.

Some Protestants went to England or Scotland.
Calculating codgers stayed, seeing higher southern state pensions.
Eire, wastrel-recovered, firm foundations in revived Europe
welcomed lost counties, with young Protestants Dublin’s bloody thorn.