Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Philip Metres
You Have Come Upon People Who are Like Family and this Open Space
_____— for the Radius, an Arabic to be read in two voices, right to left and left to right
know cannot I
end will this how
both are we though
air different in breathing
flesh different of planets
stop won’t I
hand my holding
people upon come have you
family like are who
space open this
space this open
you welcome I that
away turn to
stay to wish you unless
shoes your remove and rest
speak your into lean we
slake to drink tender
eat to fullness and
end the are you
beginning my of
of beginning the
Belfast Standard Time
_____— for Raymond Lennon
Whenever I was born in Belfast. Whenever
I grew up on the Shankill. The Falls.
Newtownards Road. Whenever
there was a bomb threat. Whenever the RUC
barricaded the street. In security.
Whenever I walked to school, I avoided
the wall. Whenever I met a Catholic
for the first time, I was already at university.
Whenever we were burned out
our house. Whenever we burned
our fingers lighting the Pope for King Billy.
Whenever we hurled a petrol bomb.
Whenever we remembered the Somme
on Remembrance Day. Whenever
we neared the wall to lay the wreath.
Whenever we were spread-eagled and leaning
against the wall, the rifle spreading
us further. Whenever I looked down to check
the time on my wrist. Whenever the bomb.
I wished I could have told my father
whenever he was alive, how much
I. Whenever I was thrown
three hundred feet. Whenever I was blown
out of my shoes. Whenever I heard
a woman wailing, I thought, why don’t you
shut your bloody mouth? Whenever
I don’t forgive them. Whenever I hear
the likes of them are statesmen
shaking the hands of the Queen, I think
of my father—whenever he met me
whenever I came home, he took my hand so hard
my whole body quaked. Whenever
we came back from the funeral, my hand
ached from shaking
everyone else’s hand.
A Map of Migration Routes
Each line is arrowed red.
Inside, they tumble
across muscled continents
like erythrocytes, millions
of flesh-tucked skulls hauling
the heaviness of dreams. Red
for departure, blue for return.
Their lives shrunk to a cell
they palm to their chest
in bus depots and windowless tents
at night, seeking a signal,
a recognizable voice, someone
home, lithium ions draining.
When they sleep, they sleep
in clots of human waking.
When given paper and crayons,
their children draw weapons.
Red for departure, blue
for return. Like veins, the lines
draw back to the heart, the heart
where the rivers flooded,
or the fields baked in drought,
where the guns came out,
having traveled from somewhere far,
and guns made love to guns,
making more guns,
and the blood began to run.
Photograph of Philip Metres © Heidi Rolf.