BOBBY SANDS
"...So venceremos, beidh bua againn eigin lá eigin. Sealadaigh abú".
Commenting To 
5th-May-2014 08:35 pm - Sands on the River Road

**In memoriam to the 33 years which have passed since Bobby's death, Mr Ron Lay-Sleeper has asked to post his poem which he wrote in honour of Bobby Sands during his hunger strike, and immediately after his death.

First voice
There was wet snow in the light of the headlamps
In the dark nights of February,
Freezing rain turning the road into a treacherous
Living beast, testing at every turn
The automatic clichés of driving.

Second voice
On such a night, illuminated by the inward burning
Fire of patriotism, he unwinds the cord,
Lets slip the thread,
Dares the minotaur in its lair.

First voice
Up here in the hills, the valleys are narrow,
The roads, thin black arrows shot through
Swamp and ledge, the creeks cold and dark
Where they run through the forest.

Second voice
He begins the juggernaught drive,
Takes Communion of salt and water—
No bread—and his flesh begins
To shrivel and waste.

First voice
The roads of the north follow the rivers
And their smaller tributaries to the height of land,
Cross the divide, follow other watercourses down:
Beaver pond, alder swamp, rivers running,
Rushing down toward Mother Ocean.

Second voice
Such are the choices we make—
Committing ourselves to a course of action,
Victims of our decisions like a river
Breaking down its banks.

First voice
Where the obdurate stupidity of power
Meets the stubborn abstinence of flesh,
What solace?

Second voice
Beyond a certain point
Of honor, hunger, sanity
He cannot, will not,
Alter the course.

First voice
There is the road and the river
And the land between.
The road is a compromise—it replaces
Natural difficulties with fabricated
Mechanical ones.
The life of the road differs
From the life of the river.
River life stays mostly to itself
But sometimes wanders
Onto the highway,
Is selected by the road,
Displayed in anatomical
Detail
Along the asphalt.

Second voice
As the capillaries die
The skin blackens
The ocular fluid dries up
And in his blindness
The vision grows.

First voice
The roots are interlaced. Life flows
Up and down
The river and the road.
Paths cross, intertwine.
What drives us—what force? What
Steps do we take in false assurance.
There is the slow and steady burgeoning
Of the heart’s attraction.
In ritual passage, eyes meet

Second voice
He cannot walk.

First voice
The locking of steps in the age-old dance

Second voice
He cannot see parents, wife.
They place him on a waterbed
To ease the pain.

First voice
A softly-phrased question—

Second voice
“Will you eat?”

First voice
A look, a smile.

Second voice
He cannot see.
The gums shrink
From bloody teeth.

First voice
Assured beauty of flesh,
Supple, brown and warm.

Second voice
They taped the flesh of his joints
So the bones
Would not break through.

First voice
Lock step, nose to hock,
Like cattle
Treading the hoof-worn path
To barn at dusk
Or dawn-wet meadow,

Second voice
Yoked to the bones
And thoughts of our forebears,
Unrelenting
Demands of our time,
We herd and pack
In endless factions:
Politics, religion, economics:

Third voice
“The man’s a martyr—
“The tapes and waterbed
“His nails and cross.”

Second voice
Rope Steel Plastic bombs
Molotov cocktails

Fourth voice
“Martyr? Terrorist! Murderer!

First voice
Do we not, like the river,
Or deer,
Follow old trails
Across the treacherous road,
Follow a natural arc,
A transcendent curve?
The new moon lies
With the old moon in its arms;
The rainbow follows the storm.

Second voice
There is a dark side of the moon—
A traitor on one side’s
A martyr to the other.

First voice
Too visible,
We yearn for anonymity
Until we become
Flickering ghosts of our own desire,

Second voice
All fat gone

First voice
Christ’s image burned on a robe,

Second voice
Muscles shrunken

First voice
Shadows etched on the paving stones

Second voice
Bones twisted

First voice
Of Hirsoshima.

Second voice
Voices of the night
Hissing
Adder-tongued:

3rd and 4th voices
“He’s dying!”

First voice
The trillium blossom smells
Like putrid meat,
At once
Beautiful
And repellant.
It attracts life only to die, to reseed itself.

Second voice
Torching the flames of kindred hungers,
The final taper wavers.
What specters walk
Before the lowering curtain
Of his dimming life?

Third voice
“Come, Bobby, you’ll be late for school!”

4th voice
All the dogs have rubber teeth
On the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Fifth voice
Gone from mind the faces of youth
Murdered on the highways.

Second voice
Gasoline alley, back where I belong.

First voice
The stars slip from the firmament,
Old constellations
Breaking up
In the steady flow of time.

Second voice
Street fighting

3rd voice
The Troubles

4th voice
He lost his mind and his body died.

Fifth voice
A black orchid tossed
On a smoldering peat fire.

Second voice
A shudder passed through Belfast,
Golgotha of the Emerald Isle,
Her prisons mortared
With martyrs’ blood.

3rd voice
In Dublin round
The Martello tower wreathes the ghost
Of Molly Bloom.

Second voice
In smoky London
Old Blake weeps in his child’s heart
“The marks of weakness, marks of woe.”

Fifth voice
What aureate soul leapt up,
What birds sang that morning
At the death of another Irish martyr?

First voice
Elephants died that their tusks might house
Saints’ bones; the whisker of a mouse
Limns the angels
Dancing on a pin.

Voices 2, 3, 4, 5
He died in the spring
On a day when shaky-legged colts
Hardened their bones
In the sun, wind, and clouds of May.

First voice
Passion born of love and anger—
Stepping off the edge of the highway
Plunging into underbrush along the river

Second voice
We find soft mud banks,

3rd voice
Willow, elm, fern and alder,

4th voice
Track of raccoon, song of warbler,

5th voice
A carpet of bloodroot, green palms clasped

First voice
In supplication about the flower

4th voice
Which bleeds when broken.




©Ron Lay-Sleeper
ronlaysleeper@yahoo.com


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