I have looked for inspiration
in all these streets:
some now forgotten by man,
only recalled by the dust and the dead;
others set on the possibility
of the here and the now.
I have looked for the unmarked grave
and stood at the memorials,
with both the grieving and the fallen.
I have observed the minute’s silence
and cried out in celebration
when the guns were laid down.
I have walked the roads of Omagh,
of Kingsmill, Greysteel and Enniskillen,
tramped the dirt down in Belfast,
Derry, Londonderry, Maiden City,
and in everywhere, found a future
that longs to be free of its past.
I have looked to the faces of strangers
claiming one side of the road their own,
then shook hands with those brave enough
to cross over and defy a generation’s fear,
to age together
and remove the mote from each other’s eye,
free to weep and see again
in the new light of forgiveness.
I have seen my people be held back
by the talons of identity,
by labels of name and school and townland
that they could not control,
then be embraced by those
who dared not to care,
who only want to know the person
and not the percentage they fall within.
I have looked over the peace walls
and found the same families
in the same houses,
too busy surviving
to worry about who’s on the other side.
I have seen wastelands reclaimed as skate parks,
a sunken ship raised up and made into a conqueror,
the slogans of hate
painted over by artists who only want to tell you
how great it is
to be here and alive today.
We have been measured
by kerbstone and telegraph pole,
pinpoints in our great country of distance,
where a land can be void of landmark,
where there is uncaged air, open billows of peace,
where words may be sifted and stored
and history transformed
in the furnace of tolerance and compassion
to award the outsider
with a tale worth retelling.
We have come to dance,
Yet you came to change our steps:
You beat us into your custom
With bigger sticks and guns
Than any of us can return.
Surely we agreed
To the way which we should speed;
But minority joins minority
And another until the
Demons in their numbers
Out-sin the majority.
Hold hands, unite,
Everything will be… safe?
If only we believed and feared
In the common brotherhood of man.