For Those Who Can See

for PMD


Her eyes remember more than she says.

"The woman," she was saying. "It was her
more than anyone else. She was hiding
her face, trying to cover up the blood
with her hands, but it was all over her,
her hands, her legs, and she couldn't.
They carried her away, but
she kept looking at me, so painfully.
It was just, I was there, at the shop,
where the bomb had been,
and because I'd forgotten the money
I'd run home - I'd only felt the blast -
I stepped out and I wasn't hurt.
She kept looking, just looking at me."


With her glasses off her eyes crimp
as she talks.

"We sold beds," she says. "It was
my grandfather's shop first, and his father's.
The door was mahogany. I only came up to here!
We used to have another on the Falls Road,
but that's gone too. There's only
the house now, and only father there."
She muses. "Oh, an aunt...
Have you ever been to Donegal?"


She is telling me about the soldiers,
one night when she was out late,
when she was fourteen:

"It was a mistake, running,
when I saw them. Only - I did,
and so they chased me and chased me.
One of them caught up with me
and put my back up against the wall.
He shook me. My teeth chattered -
I didn't know what to do -
Then another came, and he was
saying, 'Chrissake, Paul,
she's just a kid. She can't have anything
to do with them.' So he let me go."

She shrugs. "Here I am."


She looks up from her meal, suddenly;
her eyes are laughing.

"One of my friends wrote to me," she remembers.
"From home. Remember Ann and David,
they've been going out for two months now?
They're getting married. In a week!
In Chicago."

In Chicago? She thinks for a long time
before answering.

"It's just like me - only, you know -"


July. Home for a visit.
On the postcard she sends, a mother
pushes a pram in front of a domed,
glass greenhouse, the Botanic Gardens.
Beside her, a little boy
in blue shorts and a red shirt.
Trees and sky.

She writes, "Hello! No one drowned
at the graduation. The picture in front
is a bit old now - the poor Palm House
was more or less destroyed twenty
years or so ago, and restored recently.
The brick building peeking from behind
is my department. Beautiful here.
Back soon!"

Postmarked Belfast, 1.30 p.m.
Eighteen years ago it was 1969.

There is no escape.


  1. Stunning, in many ways. Stanza 4 is a bit confusing to me. Not sure how it relates or to what the last reference refers. Maybe clarify somehow? Also, I'd look at the passive verbs. Not sure they work well for the poem. You move to active verbs with the last two stanzas. Try them above.

  2. A true artist in emotion at various levels of passion, joy and tears. His words deliver on the wings of a butterfly straight to my soul.


  3. Ellen, so grateful for your comments. There's a reason for the passive verbs in that they convey a subtle undercurrent of impotence in the face of events.

    I can`t clarify the fourth stanza further or what the relation is to the rest of the poem - because when the reader `gets` why Ann and David must marry in Chicago, and the personal implications of that to the girl, it is an `aha` moment, and I can`t take that away from the reader.

  4. Short link -

  5. I did not break it down "clinically"...I just enjoyed it. Thank well for your commentary. <3

  6. I enjoyed reading this, as well, Sam.


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