Relatives bring her brochure after brochure with pictures
of chartered boats, bronze men, fire dancing, neon drinks.
But she won't leave the empty aquarium beside her bed.
When she was twenty she rode all over Belfast, dropping
into party after party with an erotic squint that made
all the college boys sit up in their seats.
When she walked into a room all the gum-smackers stopped smacking,
all the bent heads looked up, and the disco tunes stopped spinning.
Everyone leaned forward, waiting for her latest made-up story.
She always had our attention. During one of the worst hailstorms
in Belfast history she made us run through the streets with brooms
and penny whistles, shouting out messages of free love, seizing the night
by its throat. She was more woman than any of us knew how to handle.
Thirty years later and she reclines in her bed, pill after pill
in the palm of her hand. Sometimes her eyes seem to say yes
again to the full tilt, the marrowed life. But she only slobbers
some story about her lizards, how she must recapture them,
but they keep slipping, their tails breaking in her hands.
ALWAYS THE SAME QUESTION
This is Portadown, N. Ireland. Next door to the arcade
two brothers slip their mother's stolen
coins into slot machines, sip whiskey,
smoke American cigarettes.
Both of the brothers part their long hair
down the middle and complain of cold feet
from poor circulation.
A few coins won, they leave the room
and run into a gathering of cats who smell
their sour breath and hiss them into a corner
where a few frisky boys huddle, smoke
frantically. They stare at the brothers and ask,
"What foot do you kick with?"
Drunk as they are, the brothers spot a Celtic
t-shirt, hidden underneath a bomber jacket, and answer
right. Which is the true catholic way.
They walk a little further, past the stench
of Buckfast wino's, to where the well-shaved drink.
Almost in chorus, the teenagers bark, "What foot do you kick with?"
and they answer left, like any true protestant.
Late at night, under the familiar bedsheets, they read
about the man who wanted the marrow.
They look all over Portadown for the bee-loud glade,
but never find it. So, they leave the old country
for the new, on an exchange.
But from the very get-go, everyone at the small
Utah college wants to know if they are LDS.
Eventually, after much hounding, they start
to watch for signs: the small moon under
the shirt, the gosh darns, the calling of someone
brother followed by their last name, and,
if the signs add up, they tell them yes,
they are LDS. Like any true believer.