D.S. Martin

County Armagh, 1976


In January   early comes the dark
earlier still amid midwinter rain
Now that our textile factory shift is through
sixteen of us cram in for the ride home
We talk of teams   the minibus rolls out
Competing football loyalties support
various clubs   & still we’re mates   We stop
& four get out in darkness    Soon our talk
turns to what happened near here yesterday
six Catholics shot dead   three here in Whitecross

Though I’m the only Catholic in the van
as Mowhan Road jostles us side to side
I feel no awkwardness as we discuss
We all agree the Troubles trouble us
Ahead   a red lamp swings to signal stop
We’re not surprised   security’s grown tight
but as we stop my stomach starts to lurch
The armed men in the rain have faces hid
We’re ordered out   lined up along the road
The one of you who’s Catholic   step out here

The men on either side, they squeeze my hands

as if to say   We’ll not betray you   mate

but still the leader figures I’m that one

I step out trembling   fearing for my life

Get down the road   he barks   & don’t look back

In black confusion I begin to run

& I run blindly, stumbling down the road

as automatic rifle blasts explode

I turn to see the bodies on the ground

The gunmen reload for a second round


D.S. Martin is Poet-in-Residence at McMaster Divinity College, and the Series Editor for the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. Angelicus (2021) is now available from Wipf & Stock―a poetry collection written from the point of view of angels. Visit his website, https://dsmartin.ca/.

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