Frank Dullaghan lives in Dubai. He holds an MA Distinction in Writing (University of South Wales). His latest collection is The Same Roads Back, 2014, from Cinnamon Press. His short screenplay Melody won the audience award in the Mumbai Women’s International Film Festival 2013. He has also written short stage plays. In 2014, he provided the final English poetic translations (from literal translations) for His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed’s book, Flashes of Verse.
This is Where His Life Has Brought Him
Gaza July 2014
Each morning now he puts on his death,
sliding his arms into its worn sleeves,
buttoning it like a promise across his chest.
He puts on his death and goes out.
He does not look at the dozing chair
by the window, the small pile of books
sleeping by its side. He steps out into the grey
air and waits for the chill to roughen
his face, waits for the cold grey air
to wrap about him, before taking a long
deep breath, a small gift to himself.
Wrapped in his death, he walks,
a gun like a hard fact in his hand.
He walks out into the opening mouth
of the day and does not look back.
The days slip from my hold,
my tidy knowing.
My apartment is drenched in blood.
I eat my meals
while corpses pile on the floor.
Doctors are frantic in the bedroom.
There is no end.
I am out of my mind.
Everything is raw. Words
are escaping, corrupted
by a suited spokesperson.
Hate is slouched in a chair,
sipping from a cold glass.
I want him to leave
but he says my door was open,
that this is his kind of party.
Bombs are falling outside.
He says it’s a blast. People
are crowding to see. The window’s
a picture of ruin.
His hand’s on my shoulder.
There’s no turning back.
I can smell
his scorch on my clothes.
You could blow yourself up.
One Saturday, Shopping,
we turned a corner into violence –
a woman beating a toddler,
taking his legs from under him
with each fast hard crack, almost
swinging him from the bunched collar
of his jacket. Her man stood silent.
We were mind-stung, stunned.
I shouted, stepped towards them.
The woman was hysterical, her breath
sobbing. The boy was curiously quiet,
his face wet. He stumbled
to take his weight on his legs.
My wife ran to fetch a policeman.
I screamed something about her
being unfit to have a child. I was shaking.
People gathered. The man stepped in,
protesting my interference, his hands
fisting. Please, I said, please try it,
needing to hit out or be hit. They moved off.
My wife returned alone and we watched
the skip and dance of the boy
trying to keep up with their hurry,
watched until they became small,
until the mill of people about us
hid them from our view and
it seemed like everything was over.
The Road is Heavy
The children have learned to be silent.
They look through you,
their eyes dark with age.
They carry their small bodies like suitcases
that they can pick up or put down.
The mothers are like great engines
that can go on and on,
mile after mile, as if each day
is just another door, as if insanity
can be out-walked.
The fathers come after, like sand blown
by a wind, their collars flapped up
against history, their cupped hands reddening
as they pull on the small hope
of a cigarette.
The fathers follow, their faces
fuzzed in a haze of smoke
as if this is how they navigate themselves
through the map of their lives.
Only the dogs have stayed.
They already know
that roads can’t take you out,
that they just bring you back to another place
where you will sit at the same dark table
and not look at each other.
My Son Gets Ready to Fly
My son stands in the awkward room.
He’s thirty years old but is seventeen,
halfway between hope and discovery.
His laptop beams at him from the table.
Sometimes I think he will topple,
even as he opens out his wings.
He was always the one you could never
bring to an engineered win.
He would examine the gears and the sprockets
for his own mark and know the engine
not his. He holds to his own judgment.
Failure is his intimate. They stand together
like black suited men at a graveside,
sharing each other’s silences.
His long illness –
that pilgrimage into the broken,
that penitent’s hunger in his eyes,
is over. What he wants now is simple:
a vocation, one where his empathy
will be like a song to lull the sharp-edged fears
and distractions of others to calmness.
He stands in the crouching room,
his emailed CV swallowed into digital dark,
and looks out over the water,
a crane considering flight.