Poem of the week: Make-believe by Gerald Dawe

A poem in memory of Derek Mahon – 1941-2020

Derek Mahon 1941-2020

You'll be peering through the binoculars
from your final look-out post, I guess,
covering all the exits and entrances
of that most illustrious harbour mouth,
for that's how it is this bright autumn
day in another coastal town you once
could call your own and on watch again
for what was happening beyond Howth Head.

Now your own dead have newly assembled
to welcome their prodigal son back home,
wherever that might be – under Cave Hill –
stepping out in full Hitchcockian mode,
pointing to this and that, a garden shed,
the vanished corner shop where all the pals
gathered seventy and more years ago
as the murky air settled on windowsill

and afternoons became dark before
you knew it and the chilly sky
broke to a grey-blue tinged with fire.
Oh yes, how easy it is to remember
what was left behind but not so good
when it comes to why. Why? Why? Why?
For there was no answer, and never is, so
let's make-believe a scenario for your safe return:

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a seal perhaps, rolling on the shallow rocks,
in sea-surge – maybe not; what about
that urban fox disappearing back
into its own territory, unseen,
or more like a local bird, soaring high
enough to have a really good look
at what lies below us here amongst
our ordinary lives of nooks and crannies.

  • Gerald Dawe's most recent collection, The Last Peacock, was published last year. His memoir, Looking Through You: Northern Chronicles has just been published.