blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



The Perils of Censorship

In March, the Armagh farmer, whose
sons were grown and gone, began
to stir at his hearth. He stared

through his window at winter-stiff
potato beds that wanted turning.
His heart was not what it had been.

He was weak, so he wrote at last
to the oldest, who lived behind bars
in Long Kesh Prison. "What will I do?

I've no strength for the spade.
The earth is hard. I can't shift
for myself," and Michael, convicted

of bog secrets and trading in arms,
wrote back, "For J's sake, Da, don't trifle
with them beds. That's where I buried

the rifles." The farmer's next letter,
carefully penned by candlelight between
the blue lines of a tax ledger, said,

"Soldiers came to the house last night
and made a holy show in the garden,
hours of rattling and torches and orders.

With all their bayonets, they found
nothing and took cold tea by the road.
Now what would you make of that?"

"Dear Da, just plant your spuds."  

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