The difference between
This is not London, these cold, encumbered houses
where First Light is polar and philistine. Yous told me
that every city’s Sunday is broken open diff’rent.
Belfast, then, in her minutely scrutinised wakening,
lifts up her trees like trophies. It is Ulster turning
her talk-to-the-hand to the hills. My body aches.
I won’t sleep in. I will not sleep. I will not sleep my walking,
walk my sleeping. I will be awake, and say at last, out loud
that grief is not a dream.
Yes, this is really happening. I mope my morning cup,
wallow in music: the mad glitching skirl of our breadline
braggadocio; feral euphorias, fanfare of aggro. I dance.
I mime my dancing, wringing the wanderlust out of
my hands. I imagine you into a song that sounds like fog
lifting, knowing full well you’d have been unimpressed, said
juss like a Tenement Westie to temper disaster with singing!
But oh, there are jigs, love, and then there are reels.
And somewhere between the thumped gut of the bodhrán,
the twitterpated squeak of the fiddle; the grim
correctional whine of the flute, we came undone.
We all came undone, not just you, badluck
Bedouin, drowned on the wide, ruled-margins
of the sea. All of us, lithe for pell-mell not
for marches. How would any of us live?
Though we did, for a while.
Mine was to grieve what the auld folks fled from,
spinning out the feudal eruditions of a Catholic
child. I wanted religion, wanted to con church
from punk, from politics. You saw through, from
the obsolescent lecheries of priests to the knock-on-
wood monotony of Protestant salvation. You saw
through my starveling art and militant tendency.
You said faith is a cracked skull and a cup of mud.
You said fuck ‘em all, their milestone martyrdoms,
retinue heroics. Fuck ‘em all, you said, The Land
and her agonies of erosion; the polymorphous
North, a perverse instrumental of pipes and wire.
But we lived for a while. We tried. You tried,
but you cried in the night; your long feet itched
for the Lower Falls, for a boyhood bedecking itself
in stones. Hungry as only half-breeds can be,
we grabbed on each other those days when remorse
was neither worn or swallowed.
But we lived for a while, got free for a while,
of bigots drilling fingers into stingy fists, of a God
only God enough to daub or bray; of sink estates,
their malice either pandered to and fattened.
We got away, had smiling days.
Yes, this is really happening. This morning is yours.
The North you could not claim claims you. I will go
down to the shore and give you back: a spree
of grey salt water, the sky descends to meet the day,
this crescent moon in feckless penitential vanishing.
And I cannot be wise inside my wanting you. I want to
call out stay–
But I don’t mean stay, I mean go, tangent and fleeting,
in the rain, on the air. I mean to say that some days
freedom is attrition, and those days the living are awkward
Go, then. I will walk away. I will pass the ruin
of the prison, sleeping like a Sphinx. I will live
to learn the difference
between what’s lost and what is
missing; what is tied and what is bound.
Fran Lock’s collection The Mystic and the Pig Thief is due to launch soon. She has recently been announced as the winner of the Ambit 2014 Poetry competition.