Partial Recollection

Siobhán Campbell

i North

Defined by the opposite of not.
Everything that made us weak and different.
How could we mouth we're from the south
and see their eyes go rigid? What could we know,
living where shortcuts could be taken,
where gob-stopping was a sucky chew?

Possible internal action may be taken
to curtail diesel-washing and cigarette smuggling.

And there I recognise myself, two-faced, bloody minded,
one hand long-fingering the other.

Probable internal action. Our ambiguity is nuanced.
We will be understood by the quality of our outrage.

ii The sodden South

Bog centre; home to no rock bottom.
Warming and cooling the braised rot
where certainties wither.

We forget we have to get up to cut the bog
and the slog it takes to save a future from the mulch.
Did the tools have names? We can't remember much.
It's all gone, word and gong, turncoat complete.

Did we cause foot and mouth the first time
when the lambs went screaming to the slaughter
and they moved in rattling trucks through the dark
centre of the bordered night, changing tack
as we gathered at first light? Learned to warble
a little as we earned. Stuck the cúpla focal in as well.
And all the time we saved and saved
for that communion dress to make her smile,
the grin of heaven on her that day, slide of
the convert, as if crisis can ever be wiped out.

iii The quality of our outrage

You thought without a cause I would fall inward,
without the idea of a nation I would cease.
But look, I am full and fuller, can live as neither flesh nor fowl.
Here's my udder, it fills with gall.
Here's my whisker, bend and braid it.
Here's my freckle, you can't shift it.
And my winkle, don't toy with it.

We're all mongrels,
that's why we fight for pedigree.
A southern girl with a limp in her 'R',
stirring Scots within her trammelled tongue.

You may distinguish, if you were schooled with us,
by pigmentation, cast of features or by turn of phrase.
But whether blear or beloved be, we can't face the mirror.
Fervour reflects itself and we call no-one our brother.
Where only the rivers run free, you can imagine us
in an attitude of beautiful complaint
dragging our ironies behind us.

We prefer the Scottish border,
emphatically the border,
while ours has shifts that beam a straighter limp
on who is framing whom.
You don't know where to look.

We too can have the annual marching fix –
1916, the gift that keeps on giving.
A few good fists, another tattoo.

Have we a code?

Ne'er a one boy, remember, so we can be
all things to the grant giver.