Under Creon

© By Tom Paulin

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Rhododendrons growing wild below a mountain
and no long high wall or trees either
a humped road, bone-dry, with no one –
passing one lough and then another
where water-lilies glazed, primed like traps.

A neapish hour, I searched out gaps
in that imperial shrub: a free voice sang
dissenting green, and syllables spoke
holm oaks by a salt shore, their dark tangs
glistening like Nisus in a night attack.

The daylight gods were never in this place
and I had pressed beyond my usual dusk
to find a cadence for the dead: McCracken,
Hope, the northern starlight, a death mask
and the leveled grave that Biggar traced

like an epic arming in an olive grove
this was a stringent grief and a form of love.
Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of it
and find joy, not justice, in a snapped connection,
that Jacobin oath on the black mountain.

© Tom Paulin, permissons Faber & Faber Ltd.

Tom Paulin recalls the 1798 evolt of the United Irishmen. The snapped connection is perhaps Presbyterian attachment to the idea of an independent Ireland.

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