For Caitriona Crowe

First, this old clock. As I dismantle it,

A child of indeterminate age

On the garage floor, the cogs and flywheels

Buzz, the hour-hands race and stop,

Go back on themselves,

And I peer, like a little god,

In the workings of time. Steady,

The ticking starts, suburban days

Falling into place

Like memory. Glass front doors

And front room windows

Are black depths, to be looked into

Afterwards, when the time is right.

But for now, each pebbledashed house

Is a Freudian box of tricks,

Pre-conscious, locked in itself,

Respectable, safe, like Nineteen Fifty Six.

Pounds and ounces, pennyweights and grams—

A grocer’s measuring instruments

Sift reality, slicing ham

And butter, trowelling sugar in brown paper bags

For all of us blow-ins, on whom the hag

Has roosted, the hag of Ireland,

Stateless… Lord Redesdale,

Whoever you were, you gave us the myth of a State,

You left us your name

To conjure with, on your sold estate,

And fled to England, clutching the deeds.

DeValera set us down here, and bade us breed.

A new generation. A clean slate

For history to write on. Non-attachment

Our middle name. Sleepless, we hear

The cattle-drive, to the milking-sheds

Of Stillorgin, in the early hours,

Like the lost morning of a mythic race

Our fathers snore through. De Valera,

Give us our pasteurised milk, and cleanse our blood

Of impurities. Banish the gypsy horses,

Their mounds of fertile dung,

From our gardens. Tinsmiths’ fires

Will burn themselves out, the caravan train move on—

Give us leave to live here…

                                          O the pain

That first winter of consciousness—

Snowballs, tainted with copper sulphate,

Crash against my ears. The Zen command

To awaken! Child, it is too late

To run in tears to Mother.

She points to the orphans, filing through the estate

From nowhere to nowhere, shadowed by Sisters

Terrible in their winged headgear

Out through the age of innocence, into the years

Undreamt by De Valera, Connolly, Pearse.