© By Paul Muldoon

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I was making my way home late one night
this summer, when I staggered
into a snowdrift.

Her eyes spoke of a sloe-year,
her mouth a year of haws.

Was she Aurora, or the goddess Flora,
Artemidora, or Venus bright,
or Anorexia, who left
a lemon stain on my flannel sheet?
It’s all much of a muchness.

In Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital
a kidney machine
supports the latest hunger-striker
to have called off his fast, a saline
drip into his bag of brine.

A lick and a promise. Cuckoo spittle.
I hand my sample to Doctor Maw.
She gives me back a confident ‘All Clear’.

© Paul Muldoon, permissons Faber & Faber Ltd.

Muldoon seems to be reflecting about the inevitability of waste and death and the transience of all efforts to forestall them. The reference to men coming off hunger strike refers to the way in which the protest was wound up in 1981. Families of men who had committed themselves to dying broke the protest by assenting to medical help for the men when they slid into coma and could no longer voice their demand that they be allowed to die.

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