(for Dennis O'Driscoll)
We travelled there by homely charabanc
Two hundred K from Lodz in freezing fog
Through swampy woods and shuttered towns
All Cs and Zs like Wehrmacht newsreel.
The country house-cum-hunting lodge,
Was neither now: a place old teachers went
To die and watch tv - the Petrochemie match,
Beamed from an alkali tip by the Baltic,
The ball a viridian dayglo blur.
So we conferred around them: Heaney's
Magnanimity and Mahon's revisions;
Medbh McGuckian done in Polish,
Carson the Metonymist and Longley's
Lovesongs down the microscope.
The ceasefire was declared that week.
Smiling but shamingly serious,
Our hosts could only give us
Vodka and the benefit of the doubt.
With fur coats flung over their nighties,
In candle-lit corridors, stamping their boots,
The beautiful women would sit until dawn
And copy out lectures by hand -
Exclamatory, girlish and laughing, as if
This was not servitude again
But the fleeting and side-splitting form
Enlightenment quite naturally took
When starved of reprographics.