Between the Lines: a Family Myth*
‘My Grandfather refused to choose
between the Crown and the Republic,
too busy dreaming horseflesh
to care who claimed the soil.
His brothers cared.
One marched behind the Union Jack
to squalid terror on the Somme.
The other shot that hated rag to shreds
in Dublin’s Easter rising.
When visiting they’d set up camp
in separate rooms and send my Grandad
scurrying with messages: to mother
or muted brotherly defiance.
This was his freedom and his punishment:
the right to move between the lines,
the curse of not belonging
in the place that he’d called home.
I have to say I see my Grandad’s point.
The bitter brother hating war
didn’t stop the endless rain
or sell a horse for two bob more:
but then again, I see his brothers’ too
I know their songs, their stories,
know their heroes’ names
and stand, struck numb,
before the things they had to do in France.
So I shuttle like my Grandfather
between contending propositions
knowing that my place will be
between the lines:
remembering it was
both sides blew to rubble’.
* please note the inverted commas. I am relaying the story as I was told it. First published in 'I'll Howl Before You Bury Me'/