Howard Wright

Banks of the Bann & Between the Rain

Howard Wright

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Room to breathe, then a quick intake of breath,

eyes closed with the shadows of childhood

leading you back a wilful path beside stile and ditch,

low factories, thin trees to the outlet pipes.

Evening sinks on tributaries, gold chains draped

across the triptych-mirrors of a dressing-table,

the lace throw’s tasselled edges over the glass top

where an embossed silver brush and white-toothed comb

lie at arm’s-length from a careful, childless woman.

Wardrobes clang hangers in lonely corners.

The dimpled diffuser lies limp on the perfume bottle.

The growing has stopped, the breathing eased,

between the water meadows and orchard gardens.

Dreaming of its source and death in the sea, the river

is a light sleeper turning between grassy banks,

a cold mattress of bones, histories and other rotted things

pressing its flesh, the sky’s reality disappearing fast

in night sweeping upstream from the lough.


The steaming flank of road the colour

of slumped coal. Tyres stick to the tarmac,

the clicks and clacks of releasing tread.

The warm, baked smell of wet grass.

Flies fizzing around privet blooms

are bubbles in carbonated water.

The graveyard between the railway

and motorway, the headstones gleaming

like raindrops on a grave or bent leaf.

It’s that close; you could dip your hand.

Close enough to see your face contorted

in the clean lens, its tight globe of sky.

Your hand against the sun over your eyes.

The clouds arrive like landing-craft,

in deep formations, camouflaged white.

Thunder mumbles behind the distance,

trundles along the cloudbase like an invisible

ship. Divisionism, Renoir sunspots,

sycamore moths litter a path divided

into kilometres, numerals stenciled in yellow.

Troll-trash under one small stone bridge.

A dragon’s canine. Water stands in

the gutters and puddles the dangerous curve

of the lane. A magpie is exhausted by

silver paper, and stealth swallows execute

low, strafing runs. A pair of girls, walking

with hand-held music, say, ‘This is bliss.’

The day evens out like mercury.

Peace you could carry home. Red nets

are disentangled from chipped goalposts

that seem to float above the pitch.

The bald groundsman concentrates

his stoop like an apostle stitching the knots.

Howard Wright

Howard Wright lectures in Art History at the Belfast School of Art. Blackstaff Press published King of Country in 2010. Blue Murder published by Templar Press/ Iota shots followed in 2011. He won the 2012 Bedford Open Poetry prize, and has won the Frogmore Prize twice. New poems have recently appeared in Cyphers and The Fiddlehead, and a few are up and coming in Stand and The Frogmore Papers. In July last year he read at the John Hewitt Summer School in Armagh City.

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