Begin at the beginning.
Begin at what is now an empty space
on Hamilton Street. House of smoke – and strong
women; and the Sacred Heart on the wall.
Walk now, onto Cromac Street, beyond the Markets
to the beginning of the Ormeau Road.
Left – the renewed redbrick of the old Gasworks.
Right – Donegall Pass. See a whitewashed gable end
transformed into a giant Union Jack.
Walk down and read the paramilitary message –
don’t worry, the masked men are in their dens
not out on the streets; not here, not today.
Move on, up Lower Ormeau, past Fitzroy Avenue,
past Hatfield House, past the black memorial stone
on the gable end of Sean Graham bookies.
It’s OK, there are no gunmen here today,
not today. Today you walk past Yambo
Food, past Bangla Bazaar, past the Asia
Supermarket on Agincourt Avenue,
which could be your road to Damacus – Street.
But standing still on Ormeau Bridge –
Past! Past! Past! You think you can see it all,
in the slow brown gloop of the River Lagan,
you think you can see it all – every bloody thing.
Move. Please move.
In Ormeau Park you see a Cherry tree
happening and heavy with bunched blossom.
And beyond Deramore, Rushfield and the long terraced stretch of Haypark Avenue,
stands Ballynafeigh Orange Hall, armoured and closed.
Though once upon a time within those walls,
two young people danced across Belfast’s
divide, and your mother said “yes”.
Omphalus! This is your beginning, though
it begins, as you know, with a resounding
“No! No! No!” – Yes!
Begin again. Pass the bars: Pavilion,
Errigle, Parador. Pass Ravenhill and Rosetta.
Find your way to Knockbreda cemetery
and via McCormick, Campbell, Lanyon, McKee,
ascend through the standing stones to the brow.
Now turn. Look down over Ormeau, down over
Belfast, till it rises to Cavehill, Napoleon’s Nose
and Antrim’s basalt plateau. And remember,
that you come from this once volcanic place.
J.L. McCavana lives and writes in County Antrim. He is currently reading The Strings are False by Louis MacNeice and exploring the wonderful wide world of poetry.