© By Ciaran Carson
Your man, says the Man, will walk into the bar like this — here his fingers
Mimic a pair of legs, one stiff at the knee — so you’ll know exactly
What to do. He sticks a finger to his head. Pretend it’s child’s play —
The hand might be a horse’s mouth, a rabbit or a dog. Five handclaps.
Walls have ears: the shadows you throw are the shadows you try to throw off.
I snuffed out the candle between finger and thumb. Was it the left hand
Hacked off at the wrist and thrown to the shores of Ulster? Did Ulster
Exist? Or the Right Hand of God, saying Stop to this and No to that?
My thumb is the hammer of a gun. The thumb goes up. The thumb goes down.
© Ciaran Carson, Bloody Hand, 1989, complete text, Belfast Confetti, 1989, The Gallery Press.
Ciaran Carson appears to be speculating on the significance of symbolic gestures, perhaps even telling us that we use them too freely without knowing what they mean.
The Red Hand of the poem is one that features in flags and shields representing Ulster.