Bernadette Hall

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The Pikemen

There are dogs baying along the creek that chitters
at the bottom of the orchard and men shouting
Away, away. It’s a fox hunt, a sharp whistle,
the tinny blare of the horn, a cupped hand
over the mouth so it’s yow yow yow, the men yelping
like the dogs and Artemis in her short tunic
running with her bow and arrows on her back.
Clouds fall like lovers onto the neck
of the peninsula, the harbours gleam and shirr.
There are stone bungs in the walls of the ruined tower
where there used to be a dancing floor.
And broken up plaster on the walls that speaks
of the refinement of the court of France.
When the pikemen came,
perhaps two hundred of them, they crossed
the dark lawn quietly, only the chink and rustle
of their passing, and they shut the gate behind them
and they did no harm,
the servants of the house among them
and the steward, a man most trusted for years.
When they crossed the lawn,
they crossed the border between the usual
and the rare, between the still and the embroiling,
between the individual and the communal pain,
the foulness that can flower there
along with gracious mercy and kindness,
the Quaker standing under the stars, his head bare,
his arms outstretched without a weapon.
In the name of the Virgin
they left him alone, nor did they harm his daughters.
                                                           Vinegar Hill, Enniscorthy

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