We Irish have a reputation for being handy with a spade,
digging potatoes and turf; and when the potatoes stopped growing,
no matter how much we dug, we planted our children in the ground.
When we grew tired of planting our children we left for England,
and when we arrived they gave us a spade and we dug
roads and railways the length and breadth of the country,
and when they needed someone to do bit of digging in France,
we said we were the boys for the job, and off we went, digging.
Being such experts why did it take so long to dig that particular hole,
was it so hard to break the ground, to find what was buried at night
without prayer or pity, piled high like straw in a pit for piss and shite?
This digging needs to be slow, respectful, lifting the soil in layers,
finding bones so small a head could fit on your hand, and crying,
eight hundred holes before we turn the soil to the sky for the last time.
David Atkinson is a Belfast-born poet who has had his prize winning work published nationally and internationally. He has published two collections of poetry, Thomas (2004) and Black Eyed Peace (2014), which includes the Pushcart nominated poem “Hunting for the Aurora”. Twitter @ablackeyedpeace