Poem of the Week: Ruins

A work by Harry Clifton

Poet Harry Clifton. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Poet Harry Clifton. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times


A thought of that late death
Took all my heart for speech

WB Yeats

My generation, dropping like flies –
At least in Stalingrad
There were ruins, a battleground.
Here, the buildings rise,
The minds collapse. As John of God
Slides by, a halfway house

For the saint, the suicide
And the family sacrifice,
I stay in lane, in the living tide
Of windscreens and car-bonnets,
Deaf to the silent cries,
The incoming round with my name on it.

The offensive has begun.
A woman walked into the sea
Just yesterday. A man was hung,
Self-hung, from the hook of desertion
There behind suburban curtains,
Disbelieving in victory.

Anne and David, Geraldine –
Enough that I drive by
Once in a while, at the violet hour
Of medication, Gethsemane hour
For the hero, the heroine.
Let me leave you where you lie

Undecorated, even by God,
The children of a neutral state
Who went down fighting, hand to hand,
With your own shadows, self-destroyed,
Caught in the suction of the void
That let the city stand.

Today’s poem is from Harry Clifton’s recent collection, Herod’s Dispensations (Bloodaxe)