Border Butter: A Poem by Patrick Hughes

If you were reading my blog about Rome (see Day 5 here), you may have seen mention of my poem, Border Butter.  I wrote it about the murder of our Great Aunt, Margaret Moore. It’s a story I’ve never not known, something deep in our fabric and that of our community, how Margaret and her friend Mary, were killed.  Our Great Aunt Mary Moore was also badly injured in the attack by the Black and Tans. (The photograph is one I took as a teenager in Jonesboro, Ireland)

Border Butter

Over the March Wall, came a creamy slab of rashers,
Scraps of meat for the Sunday dinner and a fat pat of
Salted butter. Dundalk’s finest carried across the Partition in
Granny Moore’s big coat, pockets sewn where pockets
Had not been placed at the first cutting.

Nen peeling potatoes for tomorrow’s dinner, her nails
Tilted by arthritis, described in every tumbling
Strip her wee Charlie’s face in Montreal,
Every shilling sent rearing Granny’s new child, his magic
Trick on the annual Atlantic pilgrimage to Armagh.

The sharper accents of the Black and Tans sounded in the yard without
Warning, unfamiliar beside the softer lilt of the
Border tongue, pinched between Dundalk and Newry,
Barging into Moore’s wee cottage, sweet with
Peat smoke and frying onions.

Shots ricocheted against the whitewashed well and
Margaret Moore’s bucket, full of water,
Slopped on the hard-pressed earth, heart
Stopped by two standard-issue bullets, Mary Connolly
Caught on the head, her beautiful hair rolling soft across her face.

They bore her in on the green front door, anointed with fragrant
Summer roses from the corner of Moore’s cottage, at
Curfew’s end the neighbours came, only thirteen they
Whispered, and her sister’s legs full of shrapnel, a cup of
Porcelain tea in every hand, each wee plate
Of fruit soda bread painted with salted butter.

© Patrick James Hughes 2019

5 thoughts on “Border Butter: A Poem by Patrick Hughes”

  1. Incredible imagery Patrick, powerful words describing the pure horror and pain of your family’s loss, truly amazing piece of work!

  2. Hello, Patrick – Margaret Moore would have been my second cousin (2x removed), I believe. (Her grandmother and my great grandmother were sisters.) My father was born and raised in Jonesboro. I recently found a news article of Margaret and Mary’s death in the Frontier Sentinel 5 Aug 1922 and today came across your powerful poem online. Fantastic work. – Mark Eakins

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