One pierces a grassy verge
which otherwise looks innocuous,
shined with summer’s gloss.

A second slants against
a wall of speckled dry-stone
swaying round the bend.

A third is sunken near the sill
of a white-washed gable
where a red geranium burns.

I count thirty-seven crosses
in all—thin, sunlit,
fringed with black polythene—

thirty-seven crosses troubling
the brief, lovely miles between
Cappataggle and Aughrim

with memory and warning.
A local protest. Death-sites,
approximate pinpoints

for grief not mine but pitched
along this road I take
by heart, who now might ask

if my neighbours offend
only their own elegy, or if
misfortune is all the road’s fault.

Except that I am brought
back by gable sill, by speckled
stone and patch of grass,

to cognisance of the stranger
who smiled and dreamed
and was expected elsewhere,

who never once imagined
carnage would claim him here,
and in whose bloody wake

my hands must gentle
the dear, dying head, my lips
tender the contrite prayer.