Citizen Ship 2013. Nos 10. Aliens visit the Waterfront, Belfast.
The first time I visited the Waterfront hall in 1997, I met Paddy McGarvey, a retired newspaper reporter with years of experience behind him. He worked quite a bit in London but his early days were spent in Armagh.
Paddy still is a man with a great imagination. He had began an organization called “The Irish Parliament Trust” and his idea was to promote a shared north/south parliament at Trim. To that end he commissioned me to produce an illustrated map to get the idea across, in an entertaining way. He was then going to produce a magazine to be distributed, free, to students on either side of the border.
When I had finished the map, I arranged to meet him at Navan, the ancient capital of Ulster. This symbolism made sense to us both. The map now is on show on the top floor of the Linenhall Library, along with one of my other illustrated maps.
This poem, “The Waterfront”, grew out of this meeting.
As I walked towards the Waterfront,
Rising up before me,
Fresh, domed presence, at the end of Chichester Street,
It looked to me, and anybody
With any imagination or humour,
Like the art mothership of an alien race,
Foreign to the North of Ireland.
Sent from the planet
The closer I got,
The more I filled with hope.
Even the woman with the walkie-talkie
Told me, smiling,
That it reminded her too,
Of that self same mother craft.
A bountiful U.F.O.
A nightly spectacle.
When the lights of Belfast
Pinpoint its radiance.
Ready for take off.
All a glow.
If such a sister craft arrived
In Belfast tomorrow,
What a nonsense, it would make of things,
Our current dilemma, still festering in us all.
Driving us to hide from ourselves,
Away from the blackness.
To focus our tired, battered minds
On the lights, upon a stage.
Upon different songs, different plots
And these refreshing colours,
Flagged up to distract our bullish
Before stepping out into the night again,
Only to brood upon our differences.
To honker down, to squat upon
That stubborn, Easter egg,
Warmed by our feathered backsides.
Snug beneath our different wings.
Bums on seats,
That only a moment ago,
Were unaware or even cared,
Which cheek, their neighbour sat with,
As they watched the show,
Or should I say
So I look upon this rounded craft,
With some inspiration.
Pray, that it does bring visitors from far away places,
To make a nonsense of our wee war.
To help us look outward
And not inward.
To look at each other
And not at the enemy.
Just another bum on another seat.
The cheek of it . . .
Written by Randall Stephen Hall.
13th March, 1997. © Copyright.
Dedicated to Paddy McGarvey. Armagh.