Moyra Donaldson: “I will grow a new tongue…”

Moyra Donaldson

(born 1956, Newtownards, Northern Ireland)




What ground is mine

if I would govern myself?

Where is my country

if neither bogs nor gantries

speak of me?

Where can I stand

if I am not one thing,

or the other?


My grandfather knew where he stood.

Ancestors planted his feet

in fertile soil, green futures were

named in his name, possessed.

He preached their flinty faith

in mission tents, visions of eternal life

on soft Ulster evenings,


But there was no redemption.

Not in the land, or through the Blood.

Not in the hard lessons of duty, obedience,

with which he marked his children.


He is stripped of virtue,

his legacy a stone

of no magic, no transcendence.

No children ever turned to swans,

wafer remains wafer on the tongue,

and flesh is always flesh.


My two white birds will bring me

water from the mountains,

beakfuls of sweet sips.

I will grow a new tongue,

paint my body with circles

and symbols of strength, mark myself

as one who belongs in the desert.




“I Do Not”



I do not confess to anything – so when I speak

of the small dark spidery creature

skittling across the periphery of my vision –

it proves nothing.

Meaning is just an accident,

soon mopped up – those letters

were written by somebody else,

and that suitcase under the bed

does not contain my heart.


I do not regret anything – so when the black dog

digs up the bones I have buried

beneath the brambles, deep in the wild woods –

I am not worried.

I have allowed no prophets

to enter my house, so bones can not

stand up, grow flesh and walk.

They cast no shadows

and I have nothing to look in the face.


I do not promise anything – so when I lie

down with you, close as a child,

intimate as a lover, tender as a mother –

it means nothing.

Love is just a trick of the light,

a misunderstanding.

No matter who you think I am,

when it matters most,

I will not be who you want.





First published in 2006 in the anthology

“Magnetic North” (edited by John Brown),

Moyra Donaldson’s poems

are here reprinted by permission of

The Lagan Press, Belfast, Northern Ireland.