Ray Givans

Opened Ground

Ray Givans

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“A car came slow down Castle Street, made the halt,

Crossed the Diamond, slowed again and stopped

Level with him, although it was not his lift.

And then he saw an ordinary face

For what it was and a gun in his own face.”

From “Keeping Going.” Seamus Heaney


The corner of my dog-eared cover will no longer close.

Thumbed so often the hatched white lines are paths on a map

which mark my footsteps across Anahorish, Broagh and Tamniarn.


The frequency of openings and closings

has cut rows of interweaving lines along the spine …


I stand on a shore, close to your home ground.

The sun has just risen. Buffeting winds churn Lough Neagh.

A ballet of whooper swans strain for food.

One bobs and shakes its head, stirs the others to rise up,

a great span of white wings reflecting in the water.

Their honking, accompaniment to the uplift of my heart.


On page 400 I’ve formed a scribble, like a squashed spider,

beside Keeping Going. Read and reread

it stands like an obelisk in my memory …


My father, in ambulance service uniform, spoke to camera.

That morning a gunman hid in bushes.

My father found the painter face down on a tarmac path,

the wound, a full-bloomed poppy, still weeping.

The dead man’s glasses were trampled on the path.

Between the arrival of police and the heat of his office phone

my father got on with shuffling sheets for the coming day’s schedule.


Singly, or married to others, pages

have detached from my copy’s binding,

so that, periodically, I remove the displaced,

arrange in the correct numbered order

and tap the edges until they are uniform rectangles,

then put my copy back to bed on its shelf.


Ray Givans


Ray Givans has been published in five poetry pamphlets. His first full poetry collection, Tolstoy in Love, was published in 2009 by Dedalus Press, and was shortlisted for the Strong award for best first collection by an Irish poet for that year. His most recent collection, The Innermost Room was published by Salzburg Poetry Press, at the University of Salzburg.