Saturday, August 12, 2006


The border rises out of the water in a place wholly as expected. The "British" side, as it is, Warrenpoint, Scottish-looking and a little bit urban with the castle-keep rising over the rivermouth, and the Republic side, somewhere east of Dundalk, as it is, green and Irish in that obvious way.

We stand in the field that smells of midsummer and a way of life a thousand years old and I point across the landscape and tell her this, and she smiles, and says, "sometimes you could just shut up and listen to the world," and I suppose that she might have a point.

These are false divisions, of course, created by mapmakers looking on from afar. Is a river a centerpoint as the French would tell you? Or a dividing line? The English split New Jersey from New York and Pennsylvania because they found rivers as dividers, but in Derry they ripped the Foyle from Donegal because it held a port they needed to control. So I guess, well, power does as power can do.

So now I am silent, and kneel down in the field, spreading the blanket before me, unpacking the bottled Guinness, the cheese, the thick brown bread, the tins of oysters and salmon. The wind rides across the top of the tall grasses, bringing whispers to both of us. She tries to apologize, "I do love listening to you, but sometimes I need to hear, well…" I stop her, holding my finger to her lips, trying without speaking to tell her there is nothing wrong.

This does not look like an international border to an American like her. They are used to walls and razor wire and armed security, and none of that is in view. I think about that. How Americans are scared of the present, and terrified of the future, and define the world always as "us" as opposed to "them." And how here we trust the future but fear the past, and though we surely have "them" – we are also desperate to find more of "us" – no matter what the others of "us" sound like or look like, because when you are fighting ghosts you need all the help you can get.

She spreads cheese on bread and puts salmon on top and puts it in my mouth. I open her Guinness for her, and take a long drink of my own, and light a cigarette, and inhale. I think of all that I could try to explain to her. How far memory goes back in places like this, how shared all our memory is, how this looks from this place which is not just here now, but which holds all of its history alive… but she is right. The whispering of the wind, the distant roll of the sea, the occasional scream of the gull, and the sound of her beating heart as I now lay down, my head against her chest. All this says more than enough.

copyright 2006 by Ira Socol


Brenda said...

I love how much you slip in here, about borders, and history, and Americans, and a whole philosophy of inclusion, while the lovers are having a delicious picnic somewhere in the wilds of Ireland. And the closing, the "whispering of the wind, the distant roll of the sea, the occasional scream of the gull, and the sound of her beating heart as I now lay down, my head against her chest" is uniquely you, sweeping elements into a dynamic moibus strip, a flowing multi-looped gordian knot. Superb.

skint writer said...

loving the narrative - thanks for the link :)

narrator said...

Brenda - thank you. I keep trying to explore that looping narrative. Perhaps I need to re-read something Virginia Woolf.

Skint writer - I do love the connections John Baker has been building - thanks for the visit.