for a Dublin mother

The first wrong thing
was this: an extra finger,
boneless and pointless.
The junior doctor said
as he looped a thread
around the infant part
and made a knot, wait
for the lot to fall away.

That was the season
Mary Manning refused
to pass an orange through
the checkout
at a Dunnes Stores desk.
A strike was declared,
apartheid made the news:
our battle is nothing
compared to theirs.

And all that summer
an unexpected heat
curled, like a bindweed
root around the city,
bulging and pulsing,
until even the swans
in the charcoal canal
appeared to be posing
the question—
when will it ever end?

In stores, the till drawers
lay open, oranges
sprouted fur
and Mary marched
down O’Connell Street
protesting the divide
of skin from skin
and bone as any less
than bone
as quietly,
beside a cot,
a new mother
still waiting