‘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)