Poems with pictures


Oranges are not the only fruit

Our roots, our home,

Our Lares, our Penates

Were fifties Finaghy,

Or, to be proper,

Ballyfinaghy -

''Townland by a field that's white"

(Or perhaps it's "clear"? or "bright"?)

A life lived on the edge

Of a semi-detached Belfast

That pushed aspiring red-brick blots

Onto an Antrim landscape,

Towards the foothills of Slieve Dubh,

The dark hill,

Black Mountain.

Each year, one moment of celebrity

When red-cheeked Orangemen clomped,

And wheezed unsteadily

Out, from mean-streets,

Five footsore miles,

To state their aspirations, their belief

In a bog, in The Field, (that field?).

To stay, knee deep in right and might,

To demonstrate,

A good three hours.

And left again

A slight unease

That that was that.

Such passing sense of place

Was not enough

For vaulting childlike minds

To grow up rich,

Endowed and well

Prepared for what may be.

Well, so it proved:

When middle-aged, and browsing

In The New, Full History of the Land,

It was revealed

That one King Lir

The leader of the sídhe, the Tuatha,

(Inhabitants - invisible - of some fairy mounds)

Had had his palace, there,

In that clear place,

In his, in my, in our white field, In our own


Such pride welled up

To revel, to delight,

In being part of Time's great sweep

Of what had been, and still might be.

And yet, a part was well put out that

No-one had talked.

The children had been kept in the dark.

We should have been informed.


Or was it all as seemed?

For every Friday,

In the fifties,

He would finish early at his work

Dispatching damask linen round the world,

And take the long way,

Down to the docks,

Towards that Kasbah, that bazaar

Of Belfast's Central Market.

And there, would rummage, rootle, eke

Out of his tiny, limited means,

Delights and pleasures for

A slightly travelled Northern palate.

Bananas, black, unloved, he grabbed

Fresh figs (despite much dental grief).

And last the prize - exotic, wild,

Beyond all dreams,

Wrapped tight and carried

This way up, with care,

Aboard a wheezing train

He juddered out

To the Townland of the White Field,

Bearing his gift.

Which was left in the dark

In a primitive fridge

All night, becoming colder,

Until the weekend broke

On Saturday, early, and a summons

To the parental bed

To see the master conjure up

The miracle of Finaghy's one and only, prickly, golden


We swamped our faces, lips, and teeth

Into the wet sweetness

Of a Celtic impossibility.

Invisible to all, we perched

High on our thrones

(White, bright mounds of linen sheets).

Why were such riches due to us?

This votive offering? This sign of worth?

Only now is it clear.

We were not of that world

We were the offspring of some nobler line,

We were the children of another Lir.

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