(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,
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.