A Boreen in Co Waterford

A poem about a first place and how the memories accumulated there always linger in the mind.

Cut me deep, slice my blue-black veins
and the flow of blood
will taste of the rivers
that brought me from Africa.

Now I am a stickman on a cave wall,
a drawer of shimmering images
which, as the ice melts, I leave
to delight the gaping future.

Find me in a bog in Denmark;
note the leather torc, my sacrificed life,
the gold work around my neck.
Note too my stocky build,

the hair that lines my grinning skull;
its ginger hue
still adorns the pates of those
my brothers and sisters in the Western Isles.

And though that reign is done,
the world knows my horned head,
savage axe and Viking tongue,
just as these soft Downs

know my lesser sins, the bracken
on Pen Pulumon Fawr,
my need for solitude.
But only the Celt in me

knows the march of Alba,
the ache of conquest,
the loss of tongue,
the green taste of hunger.

Knows too Edmund’s false charms,
the coffin ships,
the death of heroes,
the double yoke of religion.

And though my tent is set now
upon an English coast,
it’s still a boreen in County Waterford
that knows me best;

hip and haw, old man’s beard,
the woodbine smell of honeysuckle,
the buttery glow of gorse
remembering the routes

already travelled,
the memories accumulated
the sacrifices given,
the changes made.

Only here is my future known
here my needs understood,
here amongst the fuchsias,
dancing in a boreen in County Waterford.

Brighton-based Irish poet Tony Frisby performs in Thanet and has been published by Waterloo Press.

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