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Holiday Diaries, 1945 and 1971

Fleur Adcock

That one sat in a soft prickly hayfield

writing her diary: ‘We visited a castle.

I have a stone from Lough Neagh, possibly marble

(see sketch on following page.)

Today is very hot again.

At lunch-time we went into a pub

and had milk mixed with soda-water.

Question: traditional Irish drink?’


This one sits in a white olive orchard

writing his diary. Dry silver trees,

bleached grass, cornflowers,

white road, silver stars

on the blue ceiling of a wayside shrine.

‘Today we went to San Damiano,

the church where Saint Francis hid from his father.’


And what would you say to that, Martha Brooks—

bringing the boy to a town full of Papists?

We must be the first among your children

to climb the worn shallow steps,

struggle back up the dusty road,

rest here. A cock crows at the farm.

Siesta-time is over, we say,

and move on up towards Assisi.


Martha, the boy is a good boy —

look at the blue eyes, the broad forehead —

and no more easily corrupted

by a taste of sanctity than I

all those years ago by holy Ireland —

not your phrase, I know, but your country:

which may all the saints protect now.


From Poetry Nation No 1 (1973)