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DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS MICHEAL O’SIADHAIL THOSE WE FOLLOW The best said little, yet enough to signal praise the best said little, never laid too heavy a hand; just a glance of light, a path I might find, but I followed false signs, stumbled into byways. At last I retrace, begin the haul again— the double task that probes the double faith of loss before gain. And then a patient glow of progress. I so wanted them to know, to call to them: Oh, look what I have done! But they have gone beyond the bend and out of sight. I sway an instant, peering ahead; a voice resonates: steady as you go, you carry someone’s beacon. ß BLEMISH How exactly it happened? Which generation? Just something my parents seemed to mention and veil again. A stain on the imagination, a seeping of words: “recluse,” “disfiguration.” Brothers jostled with a sister who’ll stumble on the hearth. Then, a habit and wimple to conceal her scars. Proud and humble, via dolorosa of a girl’s about-face. A closed order. My tomboy and anchoress. DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS 52 A life left hanging in the air of disgrace plays with the fire of a child’s mind. So young a woman immured and disciplined. I wonder if a slowness of time refined a suffering, her long self-forgetfulness travelling some infinite kingdom of service. Her presence still dips and surfaces. A doctor describes a congenital syndrome: “murmur, high mouth and dimpled sternum, that temperament.” I hear the giddy drum of the heart as she fell. In a niece’s goodbyes some frailty again wakens the memories. Our storyline: dowries of Xs and Ys. Suddenly, from behind a cowl of years, who knows who’s blooming a gene of hers? A flight becomes a call and the stairs of retreat now wind our endless wish. I tread perfections of a healing blemish. ß MANHOOD Soap the butts of the fingers, back straight, knees bent, the shovel does the stooping; whatever you do, keep scratching. The sagging cement bag heaved from a shoulder thumps dead-weight on the dust, its layered paper slit across the belly-bulge by angled jabs of our shovels, each half then tugged apart. So you’ll never go back now mate! A bucket DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS 53 swung by its handle, slops of water puddle through grey powder, shovels knead in the gravel, scooping, slicing. Student?—the Clare ganger menaced Jaysus no! Money, of course (notes fanned and counted on a bed) but more an expiation. Remember a first shocking hearing returned Araners round on their children, shout in Cockney: Shut your bloody mouths, wi’ you! Here they were in Pimlico. Blistered palms atone for privilege, self-obliteration mixing the powder with gravel. Back straight, let the shovel do the bending; scooping, slicing, working into one. Out on top, you and the sledge— orders from the ganger, Storeys up jauntily astride a sheer wall Blacks are billowing brick and dust. One breaks his rhythm to watch my unsteady hands measure timid swings for the sledge. Hey, he hoots, hey! you paleface is yella! Below the ganger’s arms beckon. He rehearses a now ritual dismissal (a nephew due next week from Clare) You’ll be finishing up tomorrow. Friday at noon abandon duties, search out another site, another start. Excuse me could you please tell me where . . . a bowler-hatted man cuts a silent half-circle, passes in disdain. Stunned and instant— a desire to pull rank, to rail, DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS 54 tell him who you really are . . . And who may I ask are you, sir? Smeared with gravel and limestone (insignia of reparation), human and alone, scan that London skyline for a crane. ß THE SERGEANTS’ SONS The loners’ faces, the razor tongues and how they hunch when men begin to raise their voices. I’d know them anywhere the sergeants’ sons. What missioned women fall for the fugitive look of a boy hoisting his fists to stall a blow and a voice charging “Are you squaring up to me?” Sunned by approvals, schoolboy crush on teachers. Then, too many...


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