To The North Of This Shit

From Barry MacSweeney’s first collection The Boy from the Green Cabaret Tells of his Mother, New Authors Ltd, 1968.

To Me Mam, Somewhere To The North Of This Shit


Even dark North Sea fish are
caught in the net of the absentee landlord
whose province is not land but total
possession of the soul
(butterflies & princesses
lie deflowered in the snow) I mutter a cold prayer


Women stem their blood flow for love &
cry about their children at night in
the lonely lovers bed
which I taste & you taste & we all taste
which is beyond the holiness of their
position & possessions me mam is a
stooping figure shovelling coal from
the path into the cellar & she
worries, not like a hound worrying a rat, but
like a star worries
the ocean,
who fears no reflection

Barry MacSweeney


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