OLD DERRY'S WALLS
Outside the eye, ancient tree-roots and stones,
A history of place - the siege-walls, gates and guns
Of siege, triumphal columns and pointing hands,
Elegiac bronze; the moth-eaten, tattered flags,
Old forests and peat bogs, lava-cooled coastal basalt.
Inside eye and ear, buried, submarine, subliminal,
A history of names: a journey south and west
From a crowded, coastal Hebridean croft;
A tailored garden and a bustling house of children,
A journey north from a city at war. A line of farmers,
Fishermen, tailors, ministers, and brokers of fortune.
My body's a boundary between different kinds of past,
Marked, scarred by both. An epidermis, dividing bone
From air, living bag of bones, with polyglot marrow.
In memory of James Barnett Allison (1880-1907)
Capped for Ireland, desultory student, reluctant
Emigrant, you did not like the way Canadians
Played rugby. In the interview with a reporter
From the Montreal Daily Witness
You began shy, but soon warmed to your theme:
The game is too slow. They don't release
The ball when they're down. They tackle too high
And too late. They tackle anyone they please.
They wear padded pants.
The newspaper photo shows you formally
Dressed, tie and rounded collar tight
Against your throat. The dark, almost Spanish
Eyes (your mother's eyes) stare into the gloom,
All sincerity and courage, sad, honest,
Calm as the hours before thunder or lightning . . .
Father's uncle (he never knew you), you
Were always "the Schoolboy International,"
A dark, fated man, collar
Tight around your neck, looking boldly
Into the lens and flashlight of a short future.