Phil Cousineau


You are the lone passenger on a window-rattling bus winding
Through hedge-lined roads leading into vengeance-mad Belfast.
Your heart convulses when the bus suddenly
Swerves past a convoy of British Army trucks.
You catch the whippet-fast glance
Of a soldier with a choirboy face peering
From behind the khaki-green curtain.
A lancing look probes you like the scalpel
Of a terrorized surgeon, as if searching
For the killer infection lurking inside you.
Years of gazing into the cesspool of sectarian
Killing cranked up the heat of his anger,
Betrayed the ancient knowledge of how hate feeds hate.
Rain pelts down on the canvas hanging
Over the back of the truck, a black lace shroud at an Irish wake,
The soldier's pale white hands grip his dark black rifle,
As if in fear of the rage he sees everywhere.

The bus weaves through meandering roads like an old Druid
Tracing runes among the ruins. Across the aisle from you
Two Northerners argue for rebel justice, a bullet for a bullet.
Those next to you answer with silence as lethal
As the dead engine of a falling plane.

Grief is long when forgiveness
Is short.

First published in Night Train.