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The Picture in Ireland


In the beginning was the bird on the hinge of spring,

and the misting flocks on the knoll’s wet chin

fled from the fox with his shot and gun. It was morning:

we sang up the sun with the Sunday hum-and-hymn


of Mam chiming down that patchwork land. Through

the nocturne town and far, past the blackthorn bowed to

prayer and vows that wilted in the air, the city threw

its lights on you. In the darkest heart of Belfast it was 1972.


That dawn of last and longest death, we woke the eyelid

of the day and laid the dark to rest. I remember, kid, the wind

blew like a passing breath and in that way it always did

the forest sang beneath your step. And in the sooner-far ahead,


the meadows fled away from where the dark things slept.

With Dad’s flat cap upon your head, coughing back a cigarette

whose end you never met, you ran a mile electric with the planets

in your eyes. You drew the bows of playground boys while I, yes,


the star that fell behind, shook and sweated lemons at the sin

of passing church. You never cared for that. You never tipped

your hat. You laughed and cursed and spat the cleric’s

sermons to the last, and that was that. Always just good craic.


But at the blast, beneath the drums of Carthage all the stars

unhinged and fled. And you, kid, who leapt the fire-heart ahead

left only scraps of wind to gasp the passing of your death.

For in your last and loudest steps the decades fled beneath your legs


and past the chapel-arch ahead, a diadem upon your head,

you raised a weeping rag and red. You warned the living of the dead.

And said that prayer you’d never said, but it was lost instead.

And in those gobbet-drops of flesh wept Our Lady overhead.


I waved and mouthed a broken vowel which you would never see.

And saw you in the longest light, where you will always be. 


Yesterday’s Child


The sun slit a knife through the womb-wet night

and bled like an egg, like a budburst head:

in the swell of the sweat on the belly of the bed,

broken-throated then and red, you said

the clench of winter let the roses grow instead. 


But time has fled with jenny wren and left

the meadow dead. And overhead a mouth of moon

has called the mourning on this room, and soon

an ever-bloom of moss will clot the loss of you.

For the years between us are wide as a child;


and the tears as wet as a wound.


Laura Potts is a poet, living and working in Wakefield.


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