Jeffrey Thomson

New Faces of Belfast

It’s 1972, the year the Ambassador finally

closes, the theater’s cathedral arches rigid

in the fall’s afternoon gloom, asphalt a small

galaxy of shattered glass and graffiti duct-

working walls, and What’s New Pussycat?

still sparkles on the marquee—as if

the world’s a many-roomed mansion split

between paisley and pinstripe, a bacchanal

and carnival that will not last the night—


but there is this question of the new faces

that appeared overnight smeared on plywood

sheeting locking in the construction site

next door, these new faces of Belfast,

wanted posters like promos for a film yet

to come starring Murphy and the leaders

of the Shankill Butchers horse-brushed

to the wall with a glue of broken glass

to separate the blood from a man’s hands

should he try and pull them from the wall;


these faces tell a story that will take years

to finish, a story called abduction and extremity,

a story called hard man and kneecapper,

a story called trouble. Many will die wearing

shirts of their own blood when they’ve heard it,

but today we know what we know and

it is little.  Today the marquee’s lights trickle

on merrily and the eyes of the posters mark

dark knots in the wood. Today jackdaws
lift their gray hoods above the roofline

and night lies down along the Falls Road.  



“New Faces of Belfast” was first published in AGNI.