The Linen Workers

By Michael Longley

(A poem about a group of Protestant workers taken from their bus on their way home and shot by the IRA)

The Linen WorkersChrist’s teeth ascended with him into heaven:

Through a cavity in one of his molars

The wind whistles: he is fastened for ever

By his exposed canines to a wintry sky.
I am blinded by the blaze of that smile

And by the memory of my father’s false teeth

Brimming in their tumbler: they wore bubbles

And, outside of his body, a deadly grin.
When they massacred the ten linen workers

There fell on the road beside them spectacles,

Wallets, small change, and a set of dentures:

Blood, food particles, the bread, the wine.
Before I can bury my father once again

I must polish the spectacles, balance them

Upon his nose, fill his pockets with money

And into his dead mouth slip the set of teeth.

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