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20 February 2015
Poetry - Study Ireland

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BBC NI Schools
- ages 11-16


Growing Up


Sense of Place





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Elaine Gaston says:

'...when I start to write a poem quite often I write down what happened, what I felt about it and I write a whole list of different visual images, I think visual images are really important in a poem.'


He cannot bend to tie his shoe.
I stoop to make the knot
that takes me back
to when he carried fully grown men
down stairs in the middle of the night

found them in floods or snowdrifts
hauled them up cliffs on stretchers
pulled them out of sheughs and bogs
all in a day's work

he held mothers' hands in ambulances
gave the kiss of life
in porches, on roadsides
delivered babies in toilets
of country bars long after closing.

At home he bathed us on a Saturday night
bent over the tub, sleeves rolled up
arms covered in suds
told stories of him as a boy
when once he cycled twenty miles to run a race
and won, then cycled twenty home.

His back, a solid Irish oak,
bent, moved, straightened
to each particular need.
Now its knots tell the years
of a thousand people who leant on him
shoulders that carried other people's lives
as well as his own.

He cannot bend to lace his shoe
and I have learned to make the loop.

Elaine Gaston

Elaine Gaston was born in 1960 and raised in the townland of Carrowreagh, County Antrim where her father was a doctor. Her work has been published in anthologies and journals, including HU (Honest Ulsterman), Peterloo Poets 6, Poetry Ireland Review, Verse and Word of Mouth. She currently lives and works in Belfast. The Gaston poem in this selection is Seasoned.


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