My mother's car is parked in the grave l drive
outside the house. A breeze springs
from the shore, and blows against this traffic sign
standing between the byroad and the main road
where somewhere a cricket ticks like a furious clock.
My mother's car is an estimable motor,
a boxy thing -- the car in which my mother,
during a morning's work will sometimes drive
To Dundrum, Ballykinlar, Seaford, Clough,
They drive along the old road and the new road –
my father, in beside her, reads the signs
as they escape him - for now they are empty signs,
now one name means as little as another;
the roads they drive along are fading roads.
-- 'Dromore', 'Banbridge' (my father's going to drive
my mother to distraction) 'In Banbridge town …', he sings.
She turns the car round, glancing at the clock
and thinks for a moment, turning back the clock,
of early marriage - love! - under the sign
of youth and youthful fortunes - back, in the spring,
the first great mystery, of life together:
my mother's indefatigable drive
keeping them both on the straight and narrow road,
and, as they pass 'Killough' or 'Drumaroad',
she thinks of children - broods a while (cluck cluck),
on their beginnings (this last leg of this drive
leads back to the empty house which she takes as a sign) …
how does it work, she thinks, this little motor?
Where are its cogs, and parts and curly oiled springs
that make her now, improbably, the wellspring
of five full persons - out upon life's highroads:
a grownup son, a gang of grownup daughters.
prodigal, profligate - with 30 years on their clocks?,
she doesn't know, and isn't one to assign
meaning to their ways, their worlds' bewildering drives -
though she tells this offspring she's nearing the end of the road
a clock ticks softly … the low pulse of some drive … ?
My mother watches. She's waiting for a sign …
'Drive' from Drives (Jonathan Cape, 2008), (c) Leontia Flynn 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher.