© By Derek Mahon
The mist clears and the cavities
Glow black in the rubbled city’s
Broke mouth. An early crone,
Muse of a fitful revolution
Wasted by the fray, she sees
Her aisling falter in the breeze,
Her oak-grove vision hesitate
By empty wharf and city gate.
Here it began, and here at least
It fades into the finite past
Or seems to: clattering shadows whop
Mechanically over pub and shop.
A strangely pastoral silence rules
The shining roofs and murmuring schools
For this is how the centuries work –
Two steps forward, one step back.
Hard to believe this tranquil place,
Its desolation almost peace,
Was recently a boom-town wild
With expectation, each unscheduled
Incident a measurable
Tremor of the Richter Scale
Of world events, each vibrant scene
Translated to the drizzling screen.
What of the change evisioned here,
The quantum leap from fear to fire?
Smoke from a thousand chimneys strains
One way beneath the returning rains
That shroud the bomb-sites, while the fog
Of time receives the ideologue.
A Russian freighter bound for home
Mourns to the city in its gloom.
© Derek Mahon, Derry Morning, 1982, complete text, Collected Poems, 1999, The Gallery Press.