Thursday 24 March 2016


A child caught up in sectarian violence.
We see their faces every day in newsreels.
Here is one such.
This is Northern Ireland 1964.


I am ten
and there is blood on my hands
and the faces around me, even the jeering ones, are silent
and there is blood on my coat
and I can taste it in my mouth - I have licked wounds before
and know what blood tastes like: not sweet or salty, but sticky - if that is a taste
and the sea of faces parts
and I am watching them envy me
and it has been coming for weeks : arm- linked gangs, us and them,
and each claiming the footpath for themselves

but this time he broke rank and went for my throat before the chain broke
and I see my mother’s face
and black out
and when I awake my father is talking
and there is shame in his voice
and the boy’s father is here too
and the boy, his face not so close now, holds a box of chocolates in his hands
and he offers them stiffly, his body held back as if he is afraid of it
and my hand reaches out
and I say thank you.

For that is what they want now.

First published in Speaking for Sceine for the Kenmare Poetry Festival 2014
Sceine was the wife of Amergin, one of the mythological founders of the Irish people. See links below.

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