By Ciarán Carson b. 1948 Ciaran Carson
I am being paraded through the streets with my head shaved,
with no memory of what I have done to deserve this.
I run a gauntlet of women who call me slut and whore,
staggering under their fusillade of accusation:
What stories did I tell, what lies? What names did I reveal?
What men did I sleep with? What did I do? For what reward?
Or in a catacomb deep under Paris they press gloves
of barbed wire on to my bare hands, and when the wounds have healed
they point to the brambles left on my palms, saying, Surely
these lines of head and heart and mind are those of a traitor.
When you wake I hold you tight, saying, It’s only a dream,
the language of dream has nothing to do with that of life.
And as eventually you sink back into the deep well
of sleep, I wonder if by my words I have betrayed you.

Ciaran Carson, “Collaboration” from For All We Know. Copyright © 2008 by Ciaran Carson. Reprinted by permission of Wake Forest University Press.

Source: For All We Know (Wake Forest University Press, 2008)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Ciarán Carson b. 1948


Subjects Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse


Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, into an Irish-speaking family, poet Ciarán Carson attended Queen’s University, Belfast. He held the position of traditional arts officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland from 1975 to 1998 and was appointed director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University in 2003. Carson is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including The Irish for No (1987), winner of . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, History & Politics


Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.