Days of German

St Francis didn’t speak German
to the robins he fed, nor did Scott
as he trudged through the snow,
but I did as I crossed
the border to Alsace-Lorraine
all that winter of ‘77,
to dine on choucroute, stock up
on wine – bootfuls of it –
and bring back ripe munster
to stink out the shared fridge
on that final 13th floor
of the Studenten Wohnheim,
from whose balcony we saw
far into France, right to the Vosges,
and closer, just beneath us,
the affair being conducted
in the allotments (we rented
the binoculars to students
from other floors), and where,
in July ‘78,
after the goodbye party
high in the Black Forest,
on the eve of a trip to Italy,
I announced I wasn’t going
because I’d dreamed twice
we’d driven off a cliff,
straight into the Adriatic,
and my friend, to my surprise,
hugged me, saying
she’d had the same dream –
and where the first room I was offered
had been a recent suicide’s.


A UFO landed in Ireland in ‘54,
in Donegal, in my back garden.
At the controls was my grandfather,
and not wanting his craft to be seen,
he had a house built around it,
or he added bricks to the turfhouse
till his spaceship had a coat
and no earthly visitor could guess
that alien splendour was there.
I was two when it landed
but I can just about remember.
I can hear the noise it made –
a humming that scared me,
as if it might take off again,
scattering bricks everywhere,
taking my grandfather away,
but he walked into the house
and switched the lights on –
no need for paraffin and matches,
just a bulb hanging there
like our own small moon,
and this was repeated in every room,
and a copper kettle boiled
away from the fire,
and my grandfather took me
out to the turfhouse
to see the thing being fed,
but I closed my eyes
stuck my fingers in my ears,
and cried.

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