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Poetry Magnum Opus

Down the County


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1998

 

She comes, like, drizzling

down into this dirty town,

this desperate awful

electric town, she says

I just don't want to talk to you!

Great, good, fine, good-bye, but

like so many of her ancient sisters

she can't help talking anyway:

doling out accurate prophecies,

wincing miseries, things that

generally come true,

and none of them much good.

 

I'm pretty sure I could

have beaten her head in

with a fence post, left her there

bleeding by the side of the road

until some Good Samaritan,

a Quaker, some Protestant anyway,

carried her in to Quinn's,

 

1798

 

the undertaker. O, did she fall down,

poor thing? Death by misadventure,

and there but for nightmares, the whole

thing would have been over.

 

But I knew, as a night rover,

roaming restless over my uncle's fields,

and it's been a fortnight now,

that I'd seen the blood rising,

oozing thickly, redly from the earth,

and I knew in an instant she knew,

like all the unhappy people of her

breed, the Travellers, the Cassandras,

those who can see but whom none believe.

I could have, should have killed her.

 

She brings no good fortune to me,

nor to my uncle, nor to our tenants,

so shortly after the local disturbances,

not long after the great battle in which

my uncle insists my cousin and I were here at home.

The redcoats are in Mallow and Macroom,

and it's soon they'll be in Banteer, Clonnbannin,

then in Rathcoole and Rathmore, and then

they'll be upon us, and she will be here.

What then shall we do? My grandfather

 

in an instant would have sliced her throat

and my father, fluttering a handkerchief,

would have asked for one of the O'Bannons,

since they always slaughter the Christmas pigs.

He would have taken to his bed, claiming gout,

read Cicero on the Republic; unwilling, for the moment

to read Euripides. I did none of these things, I let her go,

and now my family is in mortal danger. I feel

no shame, as such, I accept the fact I simply

could not do it. So is the Old Order fallen.

 

She follows me through the town, silently,

never speaking: by the river, when I turned on my heel

she scuttered away, it was most unnerving.

I fear the Loyalists are observing, particularly Carter,

standing at his shop door, trying to coax her in.

She flies away across the flat stone bridge

and waits for me in the fields beyond the town,

her eyes very wide but her tongue held still.

I pretend to ignore her. I know not what else to do.

I cannot kill her. In any case, it is far too late.

 

On Sunday after Mass, the dragoons came in,

they came in clattering, jingling over the cobblestones

with their swords half-loosed from their scabbards

and the girl ran out and a huge horse ran over her

and before the captain could rein it in, she was dead.

There was a great fuss, it was Sunday, who is this woman?

No-one professed to know. My uncle smoothed things over,

invited the officers to the house for tea, then dinner,

three dozen bottles of wine with the smuggled Madeira to follow.

There was no mention of the secret pikes and muskets

in the loft, nor of our hidden rather grand French uniforms.

Edited by dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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Her name is Rebellion, and 1998's her bicentennial. But she's a bit disgruntled, frustrated ... not even liked by all. I wonder why she thought she could count on the French?

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Hi Tony,

 

Straight to the heart of things, as usual!

 

Bren

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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