Middle Ground

by Eileen Casey

In a dark hour, glowering lantern eyes
distort shape and shade. A common history.
Senseless rage fists a line down the centre,
divides a house by such unyielding things;
set of jaw and shoulder. Regimented rows.
Canister or jug. Segregated on narrow shelves.
A thin line yet impregnable. Proofed as wall

or sandbag. It keeps two brothers to the edge.
Dim corridors, unlit stairwells. Arms them
to the teeth. Missiles hurled when a door bangs shut
or bitter exchanges discharge to lodge like shrapnel.

Two brothers once shared cradle, a familiar tongue,
trapped now in the geographies of a house
where pot and kettle steam up from opposite sides.
Mean things such as these. And so it goes.

Two brothers shrink into themselves,
find little room for manoeuvre. Confined
to a no-man’s land of hate. Two brothers
diminished by bayonet stabs of pride, grow
weary surely of a silence that leaves them
heart sore. Perhaps they hear whispers
from middle ground, soft words.
That turn back anger. Two brothers,

too long imprisoned by shadows, I pray
feel the length and breadth of freedom
swell between them. Find courage to cross
that mean, thin line, safe in that sacred place
where peace makes unity of division.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. Casey was awarded The Peace Prize, Cork, for this ‘Middle Ground’,