Citizen Ship 2013. Nos 8. A New Civic Flag for Belfast.
“Dead Badger” was the first poem in a collection I called Dam Bursting from 1998 ©. My first trip to The Gothenburg Irish Festival, in 1997, resulted in a rush of poetry, shortly after returning home to Northern Ireland. These 14 poems written in a concentrated period of two weeks, enabled me to focus on written work with a strong Belfast theme.
They look at my identity, being Northern, from a Presbyterian background and, in many ways, just not fitting in. Feeling like an outsider. In 1998 I returned to Gothenburg and performed all these poems as part of the festival at Haga Forsamlingshem 28.2.98. It was a good thing to do.
The year before, at the last minute, I had substituted for another speaker at a Seamus Heaney poetry reading event at Silvi’s Palestinian Restaurant, Iron Square, Gothenburg. This was my first workshop and a very postive baptism of fire.
I lift its sorry head, up off the hard roadside.
No one told it, that it was unsafe to cross.
The mud and welt of the car tread,
Still fresh, upon its beautiful coat.
Its back pads face skyward.
Dark leathery pads, extended mini-gorilla feet.
Its head, tucked away, searching for sleep,
To ease the pain,
Buried beneath its rough grizzled shoulders.
Many years ago, on my last journey to watch The Twelfth
For the sake of my mother,
Hoping for a peaceful day,
We stood across the road from King William’s small plot
Of land, a park, a triangle of grass and trees.
Snoutlike, sniffing at Shaftesbury Square.
We waited for the bands to come.
And as they came, their sound swelled within my young heart and mind.
THUMP JAGA THUMP, JAGA THUMPA JAGA THUMP,
JAGA JAGA, JAGA JAGA, THUMPA JAGA THUMP !
All was well, for a while, until . . .
A father, with his young child,
Attempted to cross, in front of the oncoming Orange Lodge.
Seeing it now, I wonder . . .
Did the wee boy need to the toilet ?
Was he just hungry ?
Had the pair of them just seen
The boy’s mother in the crowd ?
I still see it now.
SALMON & SON, leaping the solid cascade of Orange-isms,
And almost reaching the sanctuary of the calm upper pool.
At the far side, he was pulled down.
With violence and disbelief, raging in their tiny eyes.
Cable snapped brutality,
Performed for our dull gaze.
Amazed at the old man,
Rushing up from the back of the phalanx,
To brandish all his old hurts,
Frothing like a mad dog, for the “Englishman”
To stab at the young father,
To prod with his honourable, Christian,
The son, whimpering,
Washing his fresh hurts from the tarmac,
With his own tears,
Until this little family, honourably beaten, (Part of our rich heritage,)
Were allowed to scuttle and melt,
Like two half eaten, discarded ice creams,
( We call them “pokes” here, )
Back through the host of embarrassed minds,
That said nothing,
That did nothing.
Who watched the pageant unfold,
A blood orange.
I lift the dead Badger, now,
Up off the side of the road,
Wrapped, gently, in old newspapers,
And quietly say to it…..
“ You’ll be okay with me.”
And set it with respect,
Down into the dark safety of my car boot.
No one told it,
“ You can’t cross here. “
Late for his tea,
Resting in an unexpected grave.
Randall Stephen Hall.
© Copyright, 10th March 1997.