Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Girls Playing with Boys by Paul Durcan


My wife-to-be used play in the front garden
In the grass and the gravel with the boys next-door.
A small red-headed girl,
She loved playing with boys;
She loved playing, she loved boys,
And when she put the two together
She got “playing with boys”,
And naturally she thought
That boys would be boys
And playing would be playing,
And since girls were girls
“Girls Playing with Boys”
Would be the most natural game of all –
The number one game in the world.

Girls Playing with Boys

How was my wife-to-be to know
That she was also to be my ex-wife to-be?
Yet, as she played on her own in the front garden
And dreamed about the little boys next-door –
Whatever did they do with those pretty little
Yokemebobs between their bony legs? –
She sensed among the scatter of broken daisy chains
Something else besides the smell of summer grass.

Girls Playing with Boys

So it was she had the courage to make breaks,
And made of our marriage a truly broken marriage.
Only then did she achieve her potential as a human being,
Her incomplete completion as a small red-headed girl –
Only then did I see her for the spirit that she is.
I could not believe it as she walked away from me
As I sat watching on TV a funeral in Moscow,
Slumped in my armchair in disbelief.
I felt sure she would cling to the Church-State lie
Of the happy, wholesome, white teeth marriage:
I did not believe she would have the nerve to break
Although I had always known her to be a courageous woman,
More courageous by far
Than those whom the world deemed brave:
She makes jellyfish guerrillas look frail
And bullylike – in their revulsion to change.

I loved my wife – although I say it myself –
And yet it was not until the day she left me –
Girls Playing with Boys
That I began to see that she was not
First of all a woman and, second of all, a human being:
Her soul stepped out of its furry pelt
(Woman-image patented by archbishops and film directors)
And I saw her, as if for the first time, in the glittering dusk,
Standing alone on the dual carriageway outside Cork City –
Her two children waiting for her in her car –
Lighting up a cigarette, chatting to a motorcycle cop;
A solitary, vulnerable, detached, beautiful human being
Sharing a risky joke with a motorcycle cop;
A girl playing with a boy – playing for playing:
For her there is only the playing – all else is death.

Paul Durcan, The Berlin Wall Cafe (London: The Harvill Press, 1995), 57-8.

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