Mussenden Temple

5 10 6 8

Alan Robinson

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Radio Ulster, I can hear you

Phone in?

I did for twenty years.

White noise in Belfast -

A helicopter from
	Hollywood Barracks.
I cannot find you on the dial
But a brute certainty
And dumb indifference
Is the tinnitus I hear -

The sound of your radio waves
When the tuner is turner off.
The phasing of your output
Renders other phrases static
Your diodes among my diphthongs
Wrecking havoc
In the rubble of my teeth -

The remains of a bar
      in the Sandy Row.
Radio Ulster, this program
       is causing damage
- Cut me some slack.

I think of you incessantly
And, more and more
I think of you
In the idioms I use

The idioms of my youth.
Radio Ulster
your playlist is backdated
Your wavelength
      much too short
It will not reach horizons.

I would prefer a Belfast
Where the past reappears
      as difference.
Radio Ulster,
do you do requests?
Can you change the record?
Am I fated to carry this tune
       in my head?
Radio Ulster,
I want you out of my head.
Radio Ulster,
you make me cringe
And I cannot get enough
Of your loud, opinionated
And brash rejoinders -

Carrier waves of a culture
Which, on occasion, crashes
Upon this other island's
Radio Ulster,
sometimes the signal breaks up
As it will do
When you drive
      from Toome to Derry
Through the Sperrins
      as they twist and turn
Not unusually in this province
Fades out the Belfast DJ
Fades in the Irish station.
It's not unusual in this province
A ram-raiding of the airways
      from across the Border
Not unusually in this province
This will happen
In the poorer bleaker parts
Returning to the richer plains
Radio Ulster will reassert
      it dominance in triumph.
Radio Ulster,
You snake and scythe
Through past and present
At once a coil of barbed wire
       on an Armagh checkpoint
Then, an entanglement
       on the Somme -
Mythic birthplace of Ulster's
       close identity with death.
Your coils of consciousness
Flay and snag the present
With staccato, Tourette ticks
Slicing through vision,
Leveling failed remembrance
       as scheduled grievance
Typing a new ghetto Jew
       with a fascist orthodoxy.
No, I never saw horizons
	when I lived in Belfast
Life was too intimate,
	and too personal then
A geography bordered by kinship
You could never place the 'island'
In the cradle of west Belfast

- Blackmen not Black Mountain.
Radio Ulster, slowly
Like a microbe, which
Finding the safe haven
	of a hospital ward,
You loose nothing
Of that old virulence.
Case hardened, sheathed,
in an all too contemporary
	metal jacket
You show off
Your newfound skills of cheer
Of doughty independence
And not-quite amenable tradition
Out there on the airways
Where just to be,
To be equal
- Viable.
Without the acknowledgement
Of a tainted past
You have learnt
To submerge your voice
in the hygiene of language
Gobbles rephrased as Foucault.
Radio Ulster,
Of the confessional and the covenant
Of Collins and O'Connell
Of Calvin and of Carson.

You, coercive and conforming
This is what you are like...

Happier to sit in the smell of your own shit
Than ever let in a breath of fresh air
Let it trouble your unctuous
And self-satisfied complacency
Radio Ulster,
Don't worry.
You never really will be Irish
"A terrible beauty" really has been born
Of racketeer and gangsters and dodgy businessmen
Of course, of drug users, abusers and procurers
But also of a citizenry who are not subject

People no longer walled in by ancient grievance. 
Never reaching a different future
Never finding purpose in the present
You have emerged into a virtual reality
	of your own pedestrian image

Snug and smug in the sense of
	your own good nature

Falsely and promiscuously
	branding as psychotic or fanatic
Those who practice what you preach

No notion here of "the banality of evil".

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