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Maggie's Boy

Ian Duhig

‘Don’t talk to people,’ my landlady said.

‘They’ll only want to know about you.’

Even shoptalk made me edgy; ‘Are ye gettin’?’

‘Howse about ye?’ Nowhere had my cigarettes.

I couldn’t understand their bread.


This summer I have come to see her.

She gives me tea, barmbrack, soda farls

And asks about my wife. She is washing her nets

And I can see through arcades of union flags,

Bunting, red-white-and-blue lamp-posts


To the gable wall; King Billy on horseback,

Square and compass, masonic numbers.

Before it, her son is practising his mace.

He waits to catch a thirty-foot throw,

Holding his stance, counting.


From The North No 7 (1989)