After Derry, 30 January 1972

© By Seamus Deane

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Lightnings slaughtered
The distance. In the harmless houses
Faces narrowed. The membrane
Of power darkened
Above the valley,
And in a flood of khaki
Burst. Indigoed
As rain they came
As the thunder radioed
For a further
Haemorrhage of flame.

The roads died, the clocks
Went out. The peace
Had been a delicately flawed
Honeymoon signalling
The fearful marriage
To come. Death had been
A form of doubt.
Now it was moving
Like a missionary
Through the collapsed cities
Converting all it came among.

And when the storm passed
We came out of the back rooms
Wishing we could say
Ruin itself would last.
But the dead would not
Listen. Nor could we speak
Of love. brothers had been
Pitiless. What could ignite
This sodden night?
Let us bury the corpses.
Fast. Death is our future

And now is our past.
There are new children
In the gaunt houses.
Their eyes are fused.
Youth has gone out
Like a light. Only the insects
Grovel for life, their strange heads
Twitching. No one kills them
Anymore. This is the honeymoon
Of the cockroach, the small
Spiderless eternity of the fly.

© Seamus Deane, After Derry, 30 January 1972, complete text, Selected Poems, 1988, The Gallery Press.

Seamus Deane is here reacting with horror to the killings of Bloody Sunday 1972 by British soldiers who opened fire on a Civil Rights march. ‘Youth has gone out like a light.’

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