After the hours retracing
Bloody Sunday’s route with thirty thousand,
from the Creggan Height right down to the basin of the Foyle,
through all those ordinary, downtrodden, every-streets to Free Derry Corner.
After the speeches, the clapping, the marching bands, the mourning,
the silence, the wind in the flags; after the names were joined-
Derry, Palestine, Afghanistan-
time came for five to hurry back before the frozen road
would stay us for the night.
Out we drove towards Aughnacloy
past the union colours painted on the kerbstones,
past ‘FUCK THE BRITS’ and ‘UP THE UDA’,
past the watchtowers and the listening posts,
past election snipers and billboard hunger strikers,
on over a sudden blizzard’s leftover slush and ice ,
on and on towards the invisible line ,
on towards the republic of signs.
When “See that there” said Brid, the driver, to Zack from Gaza,
jabbing through the windscreen at the Greco- Roman night.
“See that there, that’s Orion. See the three bright stars across, that’s his belt
and see the two small ones down on the left, that’s his sword
and see his big head and shoulders, see them?”
“Aha” said Zack behind her- half-asleep and dreaming perhaps
of diving as a child into the starlit Nile to catch a fish between bare hands
or of the Gaza stars his father fished beneath
and of the stars his father’s father saw before him.
And in the back seat our heads lolled at the frost-glittering stars,
seeking out Hercules, Cassiopeia , Perseus, Andromeda…
And in the back seat I got to dreaming
about how when the war is over,
when the curse of blood and soil is done,
we’ll both lie naked and brave under a starlit sky
stretched on the fine sand of a phosphor- shimmering bay
somewhere out there in the wide world,
and how one by one, we’ll tear the gods down off the sky
and hang new names for the constellations, you and I.
From The Boy in Ring, collection available from author at email@example.com