Poetry Corner

Twenty one years ago today The Good Friday Argreement was signed by the Irish and British governments, the following poem was written by Damian Gorman last year to mark the 20th anniversary.


By Michael 1952 via Wikimedia Commons

If I Was Us, I Wouldn’t Start From Here

Especially in a broken home like ours,

Where broken floors and windows feed the cold,

Each generation has a sacred task –

To tell a better story than it was told.

For we are reared by stories in such places,

Clawing through the bitter draughts of these

For something we can truly get a hold of

That seems to help us off our shattered knees.

The kind of myth my generation supped

Was, “We have better heroes than they’ve got.

For ours are much more decent – to a fault,

And if we’ve a rotten apple, they’ve the Rot”.

Our steps are now, at best, precise and formal

Like dressage horses going nowhere well;

Our peace a thing we part-baked in the 90s

And left to prove, and got used to the smell.

Yet even in this half-peace we are living

Where death is only half-dead, I am sure

That we could learn to change our tunes completely,

But if I was us, I wouldn’t start from here.

If I was us I wouldn’t start from here

For here’s a swamp we’ve stood in for too long.

We haven’t kept our heads above the water,

And haven’t seen a thing where we have gone

And we should fly now – frightened for our children –

Kick off the bottom, rush towards the air,

And break the water into different daylight

And gasp, and say what we can see from there.

For especially in a broken home like ours,

Where broken floors and windows feed the cold,

Each generation has a sacred task –

To tell a better story than it was told:

A story made, as honey is in bees,

From things that we have found outside ourselves.

Written by Damian Gorman

5 replies »

  1. Thanks for this, Helen.
    One of my poignant favourites is James Taylor’s
    ‘Belfast To Boston’ which he first performed in Belfast around that time. I was there to hear it and I’m not ashamed to say I wept as I thought of everyone I had lost over those years.

    “Belfast To Boston”

    There are rifles buried in the countryside for the rising of the moon,
    may they lie there long forgotten till they rust away into the ground.
    Who will bend this ancient hatred, will the killing to an end?
    Who will swallow long injustice, take the devil for a country man?
    Who will say “this far no further, oh lord, if I die today?”

    Send no weapons no more money. Send no vengeance across the seas,
    just the blessing of forgiveness for my new countryman and me.

    Missing brothers, martyred fellows, silent children in the ground.
    Could we but hear them could they not tell us “Time to lay God’s rifle down.”
    Who will say, “this far, no further,” oh Lord, if I die today?

    • Not sure that beautiful is the right word Eamonn, but I can certainly understand why you cried. Love James Taylor. Hx

      • “It was just after sunrise
        And down by the sea
        Down on the sand flats
        Where nothing will grow
        Come drumming and footsteps
        Like out of a dream
        Where the golden green waters come in

        Just nine lucky soldiers had come
        Through the night
        Half of them wounded
        And barely alive
        Just nine out of twenty was headed for home
        With eleven sad stories to tell

        I remember quite clearly when I got out of bed
        I said, oh, good morning what a beautiful day”

        Sung by James Taylor

  2. “our shattered knees.” My lord – I remember that happening – all too regularly.

    A timely reminder/warning, Helen, that we must not go back to those times and ways.
    That’s shaken me up. We forget – when times get easier and life becomes …reasonable – we forget. We need to remember, so’s not to let it go that way, again.
    Worrying times.

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