Under Divis Mountain, Nora Hughes
Templar Poetry, 2020 £6.00
In ‘Before the Storm, Belfast 1969’, rain is on the way and a small boy is waiting at a bus stop with his father:
His father’s hand
(the palm soft, spongy)
grips his, telling of a solid world.
My father’s hands told me the same lie, i.e. that my father would protect me and if I was kind, honest and did my best, the world would treat me fairly. In this poem, the child and his father
into a little known part of the city —
his father reads the destination
and at the sounds the words make
the boy feels a tightness
spread from palm to palm.
I know that tightness too. And I know the feeling described in ‘Eileen’, a poem about a child who has no hand to hold and is in the doghouse again. The teacher screams for Eileen to come to the front of the classroom:
But oh, the way to the front
is long and cruel, long the rows
of desks and bent heads. Can she feel
those stifled sniggers strike
the side of her head, or is she
dreaming of the daisies we picked
in fields by the old airport road
I can feel the ‘stifled sniggers strike’ my head and the tightness in my chest caused by having no daisies to dream of and knowing my father’s hand had lied.
It was my father who taught me to ride a bike and the one I learned on was as ‘clunky’ as the one I can hear in ‘Home and Dry’:
I’m on my clunky bike,
pushing into the sun, against the wind,
through a world returned to me
from another time
My father taught me to keep pushing forward, into the next line, next breath, next moment, even if my bike is clunky and the sun and wind seem allied against me. As I read ‘Home and Dry’ I feel my father’s hand slip from the small of my back, letting me pedal away, balancing for the first time alone.