Here are two pictures from, my father’s head —
I have kept them like secrets until now:
First, the Ulster Division at the Somme
Going over the top with ‘Fuck the Pope!’
‘No Surrender!’: a boy about to die,
Screaming ‘Give ‘em one for the Shankill!’
‘Wilder than Gurkhas’ were my father’s words
Of admiration and bewilderment.
Next comes the London-Scottish padre.
Resettling kilts with his swagger-stick,
With a stylish backhand and a prayer.
Over a landscape of dead buttocks
My father followed him for fifty years.
At last, a belated casualty,
He said – lead traces flaring till they hurt –
‘I am dying for King and Country, slowly.
I touched his hand, his thin head I touched.
Now, with military honours of a kind,
With his badges, his medals like rainbows,
His spinning compass, I bury beside him
Three teenage soldiers, bellies full of
Bullets and Irish beer, their flies undone.
A packet of Woodbines I throw in,
A lucifer, the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Paralysed as heavy guns put out
The night-light in a nursery for ever;
Also a bus-conductor’s uniform –
He collapsed beside his carpet-slippers
Without a murmur, shot through the head
By a shivering boy who wandered in
Before they could turn the television down
Or tidy away the supper dishes.
To the children, to a bewildered wife,
I think ‘Sorry Missus’ was what he said
Beneath a gas-mantle that the moths bombard,
Light that powders at a touch, dusty wings,
I listen for news through the atmospherics,
A crackle of sea-wrack, spinning driftwood,
Waves like distant traffic, news from home,
Or watch myself, as through a sandy lens,
Materialising out of the heat-shimmers
And finding my way for ever along
The path to this cottage, its windows,
Walls, sun and moon dials, home from home.
Rum en rozijnen, vanille, butterscotch, walnoot, perzik:
Je zou er de smaken afrijmen. Dat was voordat
Ze de ijsjesman op Lisburn Road hebben vermoord
En je anjers kocht om buiten voor zijn winkel te leggen.
Ik heb alle wilde bloemen van de Burren voor je opgenoemd
Die Ik in één dag had gezien: tijm, valeriaan, kattestaart,
Moerasspirea, grote keverorchis, varkenskers, struikhei, angelica,
Robertskruid, marjolein, fluitenkruid, zonnedauw, wikke,
Zilverkruid, houtsalie, echte koekoeksbloem, grote muur,
Duizendblad, geel walstro, winde, teer guichelheil.
Vertaald door Frans Roumen