“Hard Borders” won the New Irish Writing in Germany Award at the Irish Embassy in Berlin, 2018

Hard Borders

i
A poet spoke of his nation’s mind 
as bogland. That same home is mine 
and the nature of it was a border, 
every name a nerve and every Northern 
town a flag staked into sodden ground.
Where union meets dolmen, I left but found 
it seeps. How fickle longing is, as clan 
knots untie. How years make a land
bury old but forget its still-stained hands.

ii
As if knotweed with its noxious seeds, 
and roots hard as knuckles, stretches deep 
through soil and peat. In referendums
Winter clenches, once again. 
Trees lose lungs, past expectant green. 
Hawthorn buds from April suffocate, 
as Ninety-eight becomes just a date. 
The rowan berries sour, decayed,
as the Sun looks backwards, abjuring day.

iii
The same poet wrote of blackberries 
rotting; youthful hope, no longer sweet.
I left young; my folk looking to the new
now hunched under harvest weights, too few.
We’ve succumbed to Púca, red-eyed and cruel,
who bedevils our labour inedible, stale. 
To split Dúchas from Hame is to abscond 
Summer to the cloth, unravelling around
our hands held out to be again unbound.

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