Spring in Belfast
by Derek Mahon
Walking among my own this windy morning
In a tide of sunlight between shower and shower,
I resume my old conspiracy with the wet
Stone and the unwieldy images of the squinting heart.
Once more, as before, I remember not to forget.
There is a perverse pride in being on the side
Of the fallen angels and refusing to get up.
We could all be saved by keeping an eye on the hill
At the top of every street, for there it is,
Eternally, if irrelevantly, visible—
But yield instead to the humorous formulae,
The spurious mystery in the knowing nod;
Or we keep sullen silence in light and shade,
Rehearsing our astute salvations under
The cold gaze of a sanctimonious God.
One part of my mind must learn to know its place.
The things that happen in the kitchen houses
And echoing back streets of this desperate city
Should engage more than my casual interest,
Exact more interest than my casual pity.
PHOTO: Cavehill, with a view of Belfast, Northern Ireland by Roman Zaremba, used by permission.
ABOUT THE PHOTO: Cavehill overlooks the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is distinguished by its “Napoleon’s Nose,” a basaltic outcrop that resembles the profile of the emperor Napoleon. All of Belfast can be seen from its peak, as can the Isle of Man and Scotland on clear days. Cavehill is thought to be the inspiration for Jonathan Swift‘s Gulliver’s Travels. Swift imagined that the Cavehill resembled the shape of a sleeping giant safeguarding the city.
NOTE: Belfast has been the capital of Northern Ireland since its establishment in 1921 following the Government of Ireland Act 1920. It has been the scene of conflict between its Catholic and Protestant populations. The most recent example was known as the Troubles — a civil conflict that raged from around 1969 to 1998. Belfast city centre has undergone expansion and regeneration since the late 1990s. However, tensions and civil disturbances still occur despite the 1998 peace agreement. Belfast and the Causeway Coast were together named the best place to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet. Tourist numbers have increased since the end of The Troubles, boosted in part by newer attractions such as Titanic Belfast and tours of locations used in the HBO television series Game of Thrones.