by Derek Mahon

ecclesiastesGod, you could grow to love, it, God-fearing, God-

chosen purist little puritan that,

for all your wiles and smiles, you are (the

dank churches, the empty streets, the shipyard silence, the tied-up swings) and

shelter your cold heart from the heat

of the world, from woman-inquisition, from the

bright eyes of children. Yes, you could

wear black, drink water, nourish a fierce zeal

with locusts and wild honey, and not

feel called upon to understand and forgive

but only to speak with a bleak

afflatus, and love the January rains when they

darken the dark doors and sink hard

into the Antrim hills, the bog meadows, the heaped

graves of your fathers. Bury that red

bandana and stick, that banjo; this is your

country, close one eye and be king.

Your people await you, their heavy washing

flaps for you in the housing estates –

a credulous people. God, you could do it, God

help you, stand on a corner stiff

with rhetoric, promising nothing under the sun.

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