Friday, 20 July 2018

Holiday Workers

8.46am: The fluorescent men arrive early.
Their van is full of boards; they get to work
nailing planks of chip-wood to windows
of houses facing the field in my estate.

Residents turn on bulbs in sudden dark
living rooms; day light boarded off.
For that fifty-foot bonfire will blow up
in flames so long and sharp and hot

that every piece of window glass would
shard like shrapnel; like ball bearings
in an explosion of values; or a bomb
set from within, on a timer at midnight.

At 11.59 pm, there’s an alcoholic rag sent
streaming into the pyre; into wobbling
mass of pallets and my neighbours’
chairs and their chests and their doors.

Then that music plays a thumping beat
and Buckfast bottles glow green against
flames, while people are wobbling
silhouettes against fierce orange landscape.

9.30 am next day: Four fluorescent men
arrive. Double pay on the twelfth.
They get to work, unnail singed boards.
Their van is full of black charred chip-wood

from the windows of houses facing the field
in my estate. The pyre so large, so full of wood
it’s burning still; less fierce, but persistent.
It takes until well after noon to die a death.

On the thirteenth, metal men will come,
They wait until it’s cool enough to touch.
They’ll fill their van with steel. The only thing
that’s strong enough to tolerate a fire like that.

In two weeks’ time, the council send the men
with seeds to scatter and renew the charred
black field. Say fresh green shoots will grow.
Say all is light and new for just another while.

© Amy Louise Wyatt

Eleventh Night bonfires: culture and controversy

Amy Louise Wyatt is a lecturer, poet and artist from Bangor, County Down. She has had work published in a range of established journals and magazines; has read at festivals throughout Ireland and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2018.