Jeffrey Thomson


When Ruan Pienaar lines up the kick, his eyes down

towards the small parcel he is trying to deliver

over the posts and into the heart of the south,

his thin, handsome face its own arena of concentration,

the pub goes hushed, a few hard shushes silencing

the chatter of those not paying enough attention

and now we are quiet as churchmen waiting to sing

our own hymn to the ball and the foot and the muscled

shoulder—“Stand Up for the Ulstermen”—waiting

to sing with our pints raised high, waiting in a deep

silence despite the fact the match happens away

across the Irish Sea, across history with its small

daily galas; we go silent as a field of grass before

a thicket of storm drops down over the Antrim Hills,

wind in the whin suddenly gone and off another way,

silent as the streets past the gasworks at two am,

silent as the Lagan canal and the linen mill, everyday

now as of a Sunday, broken windows like a brittle web

of damage that holds it all together, silent as Ravenhill;

we go as silent as we will, a few hours later,

after the match is over and Ulster has lost again,

when the young woman and her lover pick up

the pieces of a song that says love will conquer hate,

as if the two were teams opposed on a great pitch,

and play for each other, the man’s hands stroking notes

out of the fiddle he rests beneath the shag of hair

he wears atop his glasses, the woman’s voice settling

like a bird on each note before it rises into the pub’s silence,

its arc like the arc of the rugby ball, lifting and lifting

into the long cobalt of dusk before it finally curves

away, missing the goal in a silence like the one

that must have blossomed after the bomb went off

in the Rose and Crown, (in this pub where I sit today

on the Ormeau Road) a space that was suddenly

six voices quieter, but that was years and years ago and

we have long since decided not to speak of such things.



“Silence” was first published in Puerto de Sol.