Carol Ann Duffy


It happened like this. I shall never forget. Da
was drunk again, came in from the yard
with his clenched face like a big fist, leaving
the back door open…that low moon, full
and dangerous, at the end of the close. Jesus Christ,
he said, I’d better be dead, picked up the old clock
from the mantelpiece and flung it on the fire.

It burned till morning came. He kept her up
all night, shouting the bad bits over again
till she put her head in her hands and wept.
Her apron was a map of Ireland. He jabbed
his finger to the North, bruising her breast, yelled
There! There! God’s truth, she tried to kiss him,
though Tom’s near twenty-one and that was the last time.

Then she starts…In the warfare against the devil,
the world, and the flesh, on whom must we depend?
and he’s ripped the floorboard up. No chance, her face
was at the window when they got him, watching him
dance for the Queen’s men, sweating blood
doing it. I came running down, said, Mammy,
Mammy, and she turned with her arms like the crucifix.