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Going home

Ray Givans

poem.jpgOn Sundays my cousin puts on slippers, between

church and dinner. Framed in a window he's taken

up the stride of his father, grandfather, squelches

across the cobbled yard. Under the slate roof,

where once snug thatch slept, he rattles

the shut door. I shake his gnarled hand.

(Ten years ago we last met, exchanged, 'Sorry

for your trouble'). Allows no preliminaries

before he plunges into the dammed waters

of our beliefs, credos. 'I suppose you were

at the Twelfth the year?' Clipped voices, smell

of boot polish, flash of Orange Order regalia,

swirl of pipes, drums, distant as Aboriginal

sacred rites. Yet, close, momentarily,

to splinter the comforting snip-snip of secateurs,

hum of lawnmowers along a cultured cul-de-sac,

as safe, behind hedges I try to keep in check

rampant flames of ragwort.


And so, my cousin, you and I, earthed

in the same Tyrone roots, have grown

up acres, drumlins, neon lights apart.

As you lead me, my two sons, past John

Sloan's abandoned patch, I try to understand

your need for certainties: Ballykell Presbyterian,

Lislane Orange Hall.


My deckshoes wedged,

precariously, between two caked slices

of slurry, I measure the distance of your nearest

neighbour as beyond a yelp. A neutral lapwing breaks,

tremulous, below a threatening blue-black sky.

My cousin strides on, in firm, unbroken footprints.