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In the absence of a state,

A mafia forms, a gang, a squad, a crew,

Giving the young what they can not get from peaceful protest.

When a helicopter lands in your back garden to bomb your village

You don't call the people who disarm it terrorists.


Orange suited men, caged

Behind bars from Syria to Guantanamo.

Sweat sticking their shirts to their burning scars.

Their baby faces, barely old enough to grow beards.


When my mother heard

What the soldiers had done, emptied homes

Of their teenage sons, shooting them in the back, she wanted

To join the rebels, in the back kitchens of the back to backs.


When your back is against the wall,

You don't take a gamble and trust the other tribe.

My mother was a nurse, she had seen how ribs are carved out of stomachs

By explosions at crossroads. How the natural order gets hijacked by outcasts

Whose backbones are twisted by the sight of caskets.


Mum saw how men find answers in fire,

Bow before contradictions, she nursed bodies,

That where once sons and knew she could never label herself

With explosives. Her patients' injuries indoctrinated her with mercy.


I could have been a terrorist's daughter,

But my mother's purpose was forgiveness.

Tubes and Tracks


The tube needs noughts and crosses

Carved into the hard rails,

Etch-a-sketch emblazoned on arm rests,

White boards fixed to windows

With pens, on wires with retractable nibs

So there's no losable lids.


Something for the kindleless,

The signaless, the non candy crush addicts

The five year olds who

Dont have a smart phone yet.


Games for individuals

Who still see human interaction

As a valid travel companion


This is the one-handed, swipe generation,

Jamming in the headphones.


The five year old and I

Play Xe Oes,

In the corner of a picture

Of baby Prince George

In the free paper.


The five year old looks

At her screen addled mother

For a permit to converse with this stranger.


I remember my mother,

Taking a mirror from her handbag,

To entertain the toddler at church.


I produced a pen,

Told her to take it with her.

Pairing Socks


Orphaned, splayed out

On the parent’s flowery duvet

My job was to pair them.


We had a bag of singles

That lived in the hotpress

Some escaped and others joined.


For mum’s paralysed hand,

The action of balling together

Two separate articles must’ve been tricky


Like the words she failed to pair.

She pulled commands from

A brain of separated synapses,









I stopped matching socks

When I started doing my own laundry,

When I no longer had my parents’ bed


To display the singletons, like the light box

For the x-ray, where the nurse

Couldn’t find a match for the pain

Mum felt, on the half of her that was lost.


Ten year of solo laundry later I re-discover

My conditioning and I pair my socks.

Paisley Pan


In the land of never, it never gets old
Power sharing is an enemy pirate ship.
I was born into sling shot mouths firing
No, no, no, at the Anglo-Irish agreement
The tic-toc buried in crocodile smiles,
Refused to put down the violent hook.
The leader of the gang of boys,
Saw death as an awfully big adventure,
Gave up on girls who wanted family.

I blew out eight candles with a peace wish
That came true that year when the wave
Of blood wrecked my island and the boys
Grew up, wanted wendys with homes
And gardens, pensions and prison releases
Wanted to grow old, stop fighting in trees
Go back to unbroken windows in safe houses
With children who grew up on fairy stories
With happy endings instead of Radio Ulster
Crackling bomb warnings.

How would we remember this pan
If he'd stayed in never never land
Or died at Sunningdale, ceasefire
Good Friday or pre- stormount?
Would we think it make believe
Paisley making peace with Natives?
Finding fairy dust and happy thoughts
To make things fly without surgery.

Imagine, today a child is born in Jerusalem
Who when they're my age, might witness
Lost boys, pirates and natives - laughing
Together, sharing power, calling each other
Friend, when they die old men
Eventually acknowledging the clock
And leaving the land of never, never.

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