Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Murder of Crows; the story

Having been active in creative protests and direct actions addressing the rights of the dispossessed in my native California, upon moving to Ireland I became interested in the history and plight of the travellers. I have only lived here for seven months, and it has been shocking to me that the Irish, a people once so maligned, marginalised and persecuted in their own country, would turn and do the same to their own -- in their own country. I do not say this as an indictment of the Irish; as a newcomer I do not have the right and I am sure that in my limited understanding of the issues regarding the travellers I may be mistaken on some of the finer points. But I have seen the same and worse in my own country often enough to recognise prejudice and the anger/violence it strikes up in people who are afraid, distrustful of or perhaps simply embarrassed by elements in their society that they feel are not in accordance with the social norms.

The xenophobia that exists in Ireland is by far a milder variety than that cultivated in the United States; Ireland doesn't have the same history of utilising racism as a means of maintaining a capitalist structure ( a comic strip I read once back home had Uncle Sam saying "We don't practice racism... we've perfected it!") The variety that does exist here, however, has existed long before the rapid influx of immigrants, and I dare say may represent a kind of self-hatred -- because the faces of the travellers are the faces of the Irish. As an African American, sadly I have witnessed this same kind of attitude amongst middle and upper class blacks with regard to their sisters and brothers in the ghettos. Indeed, it is an attitude which poisons even some in the ghettos. I have witnessed the same here in working class people who have voiced a hatred for the travellers that is perplexing only when the surface is seen. Dig deeper.

As for the poem itself, my wife and I were engaged in several conversations over the course of many weeks regarding the travellers, the historical plight of the Irish in general and her family's place in that history (she's Scots-Irish); those conversations were the genesis of much of the imagery in this piece:

Murder of Crows

Fly from here
this land is steeped in alcohol
the fermented borders
of the whiskey road
make a man's feet drunk
and the finish overstays its
welcome on the tongue, like the
biting backwash of light from
houses where you and your own
are unknown

Welcome to the verging rain; those faces
the torrent broken reflections
of what will not be forgotten
huddled on the edges of the black pool

Without you we spin
like the taught and tarred skins
of coracles in that dark eddy
and history becomes
what oracles tell:
the secrecy of owls in their nocturnal parliament
the murder of crows in their riot
the shrieking jackdaw and magpie
in their arc
across the verdant rise
to fill their bellies on scorn

Many deny but
all know the taste of it
in the hard crust
of our daily bread
and all the things a
mountain of butter
cannot rectify

October 2005


Patry Francis said...

Interesting. I think I'll have to come back and read it again.

chippy said...

I think it's should be its.