Fivemiletown

Tom Paulin

The release of putting off
who and where we’ve come from,
then meeting in this room
with no clothes on –
to believe in nothing,
to be nothing.

Before you could reach out
to touch my hand
I went to the end of that first
empty motorway
in a transit van
packed with gauze sacks
of onions.
I waited in groundmist
by a hedge
that was webbed with little frost nets;
pointlessly early
and on edge,
it was like rubbing one finger
along the dulled blade
of a penknife,
then snapping it shut.
I need only go back,
though all of my life
was pitched in the risk
of seeing and touching you.

A church and a creamery,
the trope of villages
on the slow road to Enniskillen
where they made a stramash
of the Imperial Hotel
two days before
our last prime minister
was whipped at smokefall
to Brize Norton.

When I found the guest-house
opposite Byrne’s Hardware
the girl, Bridie, said ‘Nah,
she’s not back yet –
d’you want wait on her?’
But I went off
down the main street
like the place was watching
this gaberdine stranger
who’d never seen it before.

There was a newish wood
above a small, still lough
so I climbed into its
margin of larch and chestnut,
one of those buck eejits
that feels misunderstood –
the pious, dogged friend
who’s brought just comfort,
no more than that.

I smoked a cigarette
while an olive armoured car
nosed down the hill –
no more than I could, it’d never fit
the manor house’s porte cochère
and white oriel,
for I felt dwammy sick
at the fact of meeting you again
so near and far from home
and never saying
let’s run from every one of them.
There was a half-hour
when I could still
slip back to the Velma
and leave a note with her –
I called but you weren’t in.
See you.