he’s not been sighted all winter;
this old brock’s
been to Normandy and back
through the tunnels and trenches
of his subconscious.
His father fell victim
to mustard-gas at the Somme;
one of his sons lost a paw
to a gin-trap at Lisbellaw:
on the Antrim hills’
in a moth-eaten Balaclava.
system of foxholes and duckboards
leads to the terminal moraine
of an ex-linen baron’s
where he’s part-time groundsman.
I would find it somewhat infra dig
to dismiss him simply as a pig
or heed Gerald of Wales’
of badgers keeping badger-slaves.
For when he shuffles
across the esker
I glimpse my grandfather’s whiskers
stained with tobacco-pollen.
When he piddles against a bullaun
I know he carries bovine TB
but what I see
is my father in his Sunday suit’s
bespoke lime and lignite,
patrolling his now-diminished estate
and taking stock of this and that.
Paul Muldoon, “Brock” from Poems 1968-1998. Copyright © 2001 by Paul Muldoon. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.
Source: Poems 1968-1998
(Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)