The Road to Inver

Tom Paulin

for Xon de Ros and Jamie McKendrick

I left a village called Tempo
oh maybe an hour back
and now I’m driving to Inver
in an old beat-up gunked Toyota
I’ve borrowed from a mate in Belfast
(there was a poet down south
who blessed all the new Toyotas in Ireland
– everyone else was driving in circles
but he came out with a firm line
and drove it straight home)

cold as a hub cap
there’s a full moon shining
over the pine plantation
that belongs here really
no more than I do
though man and boy I’ve watched it grow
from naked wee saplings
to mature slightly sinister trees
just as I’ve watched them bed
two salmon farms and an oyster
farm out there in the bay
(if it was daylight I’d point to
a spot on the ocean that’s corrugated
and rusted like scrap metal or
– same thing – a tank trap at high tide)
but it looks like I’m on another journey
in another time
where I go on – go on and on –
without ever having left Belfast
or having to go to Inver
– in Irish it means river
mouth
– which is a bit like not having read
– I don’t know the language –
like not having read
that book – is it a novel or memoir? –
called The House at Inver

which stood somewhere on the shelves
in our house in Belfast
which reminds me my grandmother’s house
in Belfast was called Invergowrie

after the village in the Lowlands she was born in
or maybe that her family came from
(they brought the tin nameplate with them
when they moved from Glasgow
and settled – more or less – in Ireland)

I’m going to spend the night in Inver
– check in to some B&B
because I can’t stay in Belfast
but when I get to Inver I’ll be sorry
I didn’t stay behind in Belfast
– always this disquiet – I’m anxious
– anxious to no purpose –
always always always
and always too much – over the top –
and all for nothing
on the road to Inver
that’s a dream road
which is just a phrase like the rood of time

or the road of life

or big fat pursy toad

(it’s the same road that leads
to the Elver Inn on Lough Neagh)

the wheel of my borrowed car
is taut like a fishing line
or like reins
and the wheels they go smoothly
over the tired the humpy
old road
that feels a bit like a bog road
– I smile at this symbol as I recall it
and make a right turn
– how many borrowed things do
I go about in or use all day?
but the things that are lent I take
them over and make them mine
– one day way back they even loaned me me
– I’d stake my life on that
though the idea cuts me like a knife
(I feel like – well
a double agent who might be triple)

there’s a mobile home by the roadside
– one with no wheels I often used to dream of
when my heart and my spirit they
felt cut to pieces as I worried
what would happen to my children
– the headlights catch its fence
that’s new garden-centre wattle
an open field and the moon
making it cold like bare metal
for the car in which – leaving Tempo –
I felt like a freedom rider
has boxed me in
it’s like I’m trapped inside her
and can only control – well the thing –
if I’m locked in it
and feel the car’s part of me
I guess they’re happy in that stretched
caravan but if they saw me driving past
they’d say there goes a happy fella
he doesn’t give a damn what his car looks like
no one’s ever asked him to write a poem
in praise of its make and makers

– they’d say that of course
if they could see the state this
what they call a cyar is in
but none of them would know
that on the road to Inver
in moonlight in my own so
deep-down sadness driving this borrowed
Toyota disconsolately
I’m losing myself in the road in front of me
I’m adding myself to the distance
and then suddenly
out of some terrible desire
I put my foot down and wham forward
but my heart stays with that pile of stones
I swerved past without seeing
– it stood at the wattle gate
a pile of road metal
– yes my heart is empty
my unsatisfied heart
my heart more human than I am and so
much more exact than life is

on the road to Inver near midnight
at the wheel under the moon’s light
on the road to Inver – oh
how tiring one’s imagination is
on the road to Inver always closer
to Inver – I want to reach out and touch it
like the rocks round Bantry Bay
on the road to Inver
craving peace its slow so slow
drop into our laps but as far
from it and myself as ever