© By Ciaran Carson
The duck patrol is waddling down the odd-numbers side of Raglan Street,
The bass-ackwards private at the rear trying not to think of a third eye
Being drilled in the back of his head. Fifty-five. They stop. The head
Peers round, then leaps the gap of Balaclava Street. He waves the body over
One by one. Forty-nine. Cape Street. A gable wall. Garnet Street. A gable wall.
Frere Street. Forty-seven. Forty-five-and-a-half. Milan Street. A grocer’s shop.
They stop. They check their guns. Thirteen. Milton Street. An iron lamppost.
Number one. Ormond Street. ‘Two ducks in front of a duck and two ducks
behind a duck, how many ducks?’ Five? ‘No. Three.’ This is not the end.
© Ciaran Carson, Army, 1987, complete text, The Irish for No, 1987, The Gallery Press.
Ciaran Carson describes a British army foot patrol in the side streets off the Lower Falls Road in Belfast during the early Troubles. The poem seems to dwell on the mundane thoughts of a soldier who must be constantly alert to the danger of being shot.