Dead Short on the System, Belfast, 1923

by Gaynor Kane

Every trolleybus and tram frozen,
stopped dead on the first evening
of a new year – dark, damp
and sticky like any new-born.

Across the city, cars are static
blocking streets and junctions
like snakes and ladders.
Those tram-trapped, fear
the curfew more than the rain.

Moments before the blackout
a rat wandered aimlessly
into a high-tension power-station,
to lazily chew through copper cables.

It was found the following day
fused to circuit, curled teeth
still clamped around the wires, pink ears,
black currant eyes, rigor-straight legs,
while outside trams trundled.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at The Belfast Linen Hall Library, Belfast, in 2022. The workshops were led by Maria McManus.


Cover image: High Street, Belfast. Collection: Irish Scenes & Country Life 1888-1914 by R. Welch. Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. No known copyright restrictions.