Rocky Road from Dublin
For Keith, Kathleen, John and Dot
This place has grown a skin
like drying turf; the quaint decay
incensed by snarling traffic fumes
and goosed by all things new.
Rare times revised; seduced
by ancient history, Danelaw
and Eurogeld: ‘Queue now
to view the Book of Kells!’
Though folk still cross themselves,
talk tongues like a tridentine rite,
good craic’s the wanton whore,
mass genuflection of the will,
mouth music piped and pitched
at tourists tamed and canonised.
Flipside of bright new store some wag
has scrawled: ‘I spend therefore I am.’
He hardly breaks the countertop.
Pure leprechaun: ‘Ah that boreen,
so quiet. Sure you could murder him
(sly dig) no one would know.’
They think the church has lost its way.
He gestures to the motorbike
outside the presbytery (eye jig):
‘A two-stroke priest, yer man. Can’t cope.’
High hills, cruel archaeology
raw as a curlew’s eye; roadhenge:
echoes of ambulance cast down
some wormhole-callused sky;
‘Enough to wake the dead!’—grave goods
to conjure ancient wailing rites,
draw power from what lies beneath,
unction for mating of hurt mind
The lone turf-cutter harvesting:
he gathers up the half-dried sods,
air drowsing with the reek
of drying peat, his face the tinct
and texture of the turf itself—
couchant, through troubles times
and martyrdoms, like those sealed in
the Seven Sleepers’ den.
Even in summer months,
the verges lush and overblown,
can’t miss notice of incident.
Butt of a road sign, milestone, post
or tree: ‘If you saw anything,
please ‘phone …’; floral bouquets.
At first theatrically bright,
over long weeks they fade, decay,
degrade, till little’s left
but cellophane. Flesh out
the story-line: young life
laid down, usually late
at night; hormones or drink;
risk-taking, flash green traffic signs
of youth. Take in the bolshie police
car hazard lights, soundtrack
baffled arcane plain-chant,
bit parts and chorus shuffled round
the ambulance. Exeunt stage left,
death masque. Blooms picked before
their prime—show of respect
or votive offering:
what else is signified?
Is there some base instinct,
blind-spot, desire for ritual
to sauce and satiate,
beneath the lore enforced
by church and burial mound
There’s obviously an itch
for something more. To whom
or what: fickle road gods, the stop-
go randomness of fate?
Our cyber world’s no help at all.
Like tribal ancestors we crave
pre-apostolic cipher, rite,
in hope this awful sacrifice
will slake what is beyond
our wisdom to digest.
—Peter Branson, Rode Heath, South Cheshire, UK