© By Gráinne Tobin

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Carved names make skin prickle,
Bumps rise, as we read whose graves
We’re walking over on our holidays.
On limestone or granite
In shady cobbled squares
Every village lists its children
Dead for France.

Stone cross planted by a vineyard,
Miles out of town; who has left red flowers?
Fifty years on, we’re tourists here,
Driving past a murder.
My atavistic right hand twitches like a dowser’s
Towards my forehead in the sign of the cross –
God between us and all harm –

But back at home, we won’t stare at the flowers
Pinned in bunches to the city shopfront,
Or wired to the roadside fence
Where the crater’s filled, the asphalt patched.
We’ll lower our eyes and drive on, shivering,
Resisting the reflex gesture or collaborating
in the Ulsterisation of grief.

From: Banjaxxed, Summer Palace Press, 2001

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