I am sometimes asked where all the ideas come from that inspire a new poem. Well, I range around. Today’s poem’s train of thought was provoked by a tweet. I am not a frequenter tweeter, but I do follow a few who are only on Twitter. And my current favourite is The Irish Border (@BorderIrish) who is wittily discoursing on the Brexit crisis about what to do with the problem of it. A lot hangs upon the Good Friday Treaty (aka the Belfast Treaty of 1998), which spelled out the end of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We live in border country. For instance, today we went to the launderette in Fermanagh, which is eight miles away. If we opted for ones in Leitrim, we would have had to travel around sixteen miles to do the dirty washing. We fill our prescriptions in Fermanagh, because our doctor’s surgery is just over the bridge from it on the Cavan side of Lough MacNean. It is often cheaper too, but if it isn’t they send us to our nearest Leitrim pharmacy which is (yes) sixteen miles in the other direction.
Today’s featured image is a photo of an art project at that bridge point that marks an international boundary. The 2017 project was ‘Soften the Border’, a peaceful way of voicing what locals want for their future. And it was done in knitting and crochet!
Read more here We Need to Talk About Symbols
The poem opens with a reference to the Black Pig’s Dyke, an ancient earthwork fortification (a bit like a neolithic Trump wall) to keep out invading incursions between Ulster and Connaught. More here Pigs Can’t Fly?
And today’s inspiration comes from the Yellow Manifesto. Which was the spark that lit the metaphorical match today.
“A border is where realities co-exist” – The Yellow Manifesto
We know this well, those of us who
ride the Black Pig’s back here.
We remember its day of rampant tusk and harsh bristle
over thirty years and more.
We unwound a lot over the past twenty years,
got past the gore; uncombed some knots and tats.
We like the one we have right now,
and would very much like it remaining invisible.
Except perhaps on bureaucrats’ maps.
We have done the hard work to make visible
more than any political magical thinking.
(Much of it paid for by the EU, thank you!)
We cannot go back to the hot-cold war ways
of Checkpoint Charlie rifling for contraband bacon.
Besides of course of which, it’s probably already
being stuffed down the granny’s corset and brolly.
We long ago learned the math of two currencies,
but newly know the true value of peace.
It’s just another way of doing the double,
understanding how the other side thinks.
We can tell you the exact cost and
count it in epigenetics because
PTSD still holds a lingering legacy.
Land is porous. Just like our meadows and bogs.
You would think after two millennium
we’d get the hang of forgiving trespassers,
the being kind to our neighbours.
Maps are for magical thinking that
set traps for the less canny and unwary.
Borderlanders know the true juju
of negotiating their lives betwixt and between.
Copyright © Bee Smith 2018