© By Paul Muldoon

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It begins with one or two soldiers
And one or two following
With hampers over their shoulders.
They might be off wildfowling

As they would on another Christmas Day,
So gingerly they pick their steps.
No one seems sure of what to do.
All stop when one stops.

A fire gets lit. Some spread
Their greatcoats on the frozen ground.
Polish vodka, fruit and bread
Are broken out and passed round.

The air of an old German song,
The rules of Patience, are the secrets
They’ll share before long.
They draw on their last cigarettes.

As Friday-night lovers, when its over,
Might get up from their mattresses
To congratulate each other
And exchange names and addresses.

© Paul Muldoon, permissons Faber & Faber Ltd.

Paul Muldoon imagines a truce that is effected with ease and civility. This perhaps resonates with a sense that was widely felt, when the Troubles eventually ended, that the urgency which had driven them had become hard to comprehend.

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