Belfaste is a place meet for a corporate town, armed with all commodities, as a principal haven, wood and good ground, standing also upon a border…
—extract from a letter to the Privy Council from the Earl of Essex, 1573.

 

I

Where nothing was, then something. Six months ago
most of this was sludge and a gangrenous slipway
dipping its ruined foot in the sea: a single rusted gantry
marking the spot where a small town’s population
of Protestant men built a ship the size of the Empire State Building.
Smashed cars and wreckers’ yards flourished in between.

II

A skin-stripping wind. This morning I walk on concrete
smooth as a runway with a full-scale outline laid in light
of the uppermost deck. Railings as over a stern.
Grass. Seating. The memorial for the dead hosts names
I can’t pronounce—Sjöstedt, Taussig, Backström
in immaculate glass. Once, I count a surname seven times.