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Who Is Your City?


The canal's middle swells with waiting
for odd hours of night in the middle of the day.
North appears everywhere, the now of the snow,
warming ice counts itself away in different
sun angles, like a block of frozen ink
insisting on the line. The water knows
the way down, to the Titanic and her two
sisters. She rouges her silver likeness,
buttons her gown herself, so high, so closed,
her days malodorous from saturated skies.

Do you think it reflects well on our city
to ones who arrived only a week ago
to go outdoors in pyjamas to the turgid
bar district, the Gucci outlets in the city's
revamped living room? To photograph
a child on the King's Highway?
Arrival city—where disaster zones have become
more theatrical, ambitious parks obsessed
with self-esteem are honeycombed
with missions and endeavours and offers
of salvation as an incandescent life force.

Gone is the edginess of the city, cleansed
of conflict, argument, debate, protest, ructions
and ribaldry, notwithstanding the spy cameras,
the pop-up shops, the flash mobs of drink-
fuelled petrolheads, the new Purple Flag award.
I still have to define my life through the false prism
of Samson and Goliath, the ailing road perfuming
the heavy curtains of Parliament. We still show
our papers to reveal where we are going.

The street will no longer lie like a doormat
but plunge storeys down on to swift pavements
pedal-powered by driverless taxis. Nobody's
living there, nobody's moved in, it's sitting there
though the visitor centre is shut
and they are lifting the paddy fields on to the roof
which smells too much of museum dust
or pages from faded magazines. The waterfront within
the enabling bygone hedges is made of flesh.
I speak the language, I know how to be a woman here.


Medbh McGuckian

Blaris Moor
Wake Forest University Press


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