from  In Security

Security Forces 1


The rebel cave


At the entrance

the redcoats sat  

and smoked.  


The rebels,

deep in the cave,

were out of sight


and silent. They were

pure rebel, bodies

without borders, 


merging, becoming  one,

and the cave, emerging,

slowly taking shape.







Security Forces 2





Here’s security  

waving papers  

with ink still wet

forcing the lock

on the door.


Here because of a  

language they  

don’t understand,  

tracking down reserves, 

cachets long underground, 

bonds between families. 


For the sake of security 

weapons in their millions

drifted through the open sea

into the deep trench

of Beaufort’s Dyke.  




Two clergy   

peer in. 

They cannot say  

what they saw, 

but swear to  

have seen it. 


We proclaim

the mystery

of faith.


The glory of God 

and weaponry  

bent out of shape 

or in concrete. 

Bells tinkle. 


These things remain mysteries, 

decommissioned weapons

in unknown dumps

and those that drift

with deep sea creatures. 


They cannot say what 

has been seen, only  

that it has been seen. 

Like the dead  

whose bodies 

prove death but 

say nothing of it.  


Witness to the  

act of witnessing. 

I saw it and it 

was seen. 




On a wet morning in February I  

prise open a blank cell of family life  

where numbers don't add up 

and hand out money to children  

who have long lost faith. I don’t  

know what to do for the best.  


Moving around the kitchen, 

between the four walls, the sink and the  

stove I have kept myself for myself.  

Security forces the door shut from the  

inside. It forces my steps on the way to work,  

our little life and its ups and downs.  


I erect boundaries to prevent incursion. 

I have systems that detect movement.  

There are means to respond. These 

are the forms of security and its structures.  

Fences and neighbours.  




Many names circle the  

house in the small  

valley but never alight, 

refusing collection.


The many names  

cradle the land 

and its few people  

loosely in their arms.  




Security may be the  

stories we tell our selves. 

The day the keeper 

came and shot

baby birds,

young rooks 

newly hatched,

shooting up 

through the nests. 


The rooks kept us 

company, smart 

enough to stay  

together in the 

clamour of scrappy  

buildings called 

nests constructed  

from the dry ash twigs, 

unlike the isolated 

humans of  

no consequence  

who rattle around 

in deserted houses 

waiting for the  

postman to call. 




Security lies in 


specks of dust  

picked up  

in the sunlight 

as they fall  

between gaps  

in the boards. 


The weight of these 

memories when  

nothing stays the same. 

There is no way back. 

Securities, deposits in a  

savings account 

that accumulate interest 

over time. They have 

to be made to work.  

I take them out 

and count them.  






Security Blankets



From Frongoch to Woodstock and  

Windsor, from Long Kesh and the  


H-blocks to wet city streets, a blanket hangs  

between bare forked ribs and the world. 


When America was discovered its  

inhabitants were on the blanket and  


unrecognisable as human beings,  

and suffered the cluster bombing of  


influenza and cholera. Under a blanket  

in Frongoch in 1916 with dry and flaking skin  


and broken bones while the enemy was  

otherwise occupied digging trenches in  


Germany or France the army of Ireland worked  

undercover beneath the distracted gaze of guards  


too old for combat and rearranged the  

parts until the structures of state dissolved.  


The context might have been the green  

fields of Bala and the shock of a body  


clinging on, but the method  

itinerant and indigenous.  








Taking back control


They can’t bear to be seen  

anymore. Their tattooed  

necks. If self-harm uses a  

sterilised blade, special  


equipment to minimise  

infection, then the new  

battle lines are drawn by   

the edge of a rusty bucket  


left over from the days 

of milking by hand,  

long discarded in the  

nettle patch against the  


side of a tumbledown shed 

across a farmyard sticky 

with wet soil, 

and leaves the ragged edges  


of an open wound that bleeds  

freely through soft torn flesh.  

It is a form of self-harm 

that the poor, who think  


they deserve no more,  

have inflicted 

on themselves. Borders 

are drawn in the blood  


of workers who lost their work 

first and then their union.  

They are divided  

by lines that are  


wounds that bleed, new  

borders made from  

ripping out the steely  

hearts of people  


on the beaches of  

Port Talbot, under the  

sulky stare  

of a cold furnace.   



Out to sea the wind 

turbines turn slowly, grinding 

out a crazed decision 

made through desperation, a belief 


that things can get no worse, 

that it is important to do  

anything. The kind of 

decision made at throwing


out time as the lights 

go up on the grey faces 

after a night of dancing and  

in that moment of illumination  


you decide to grab hold  

of anyone. Later, turning 

over, you stare into the eyes 

of a strange bedfellow. You  


have lines cut into your face. 

There is blood on the sheets 

from where the rust belt 

has cut into actual flesh.  


Galvanised sheet metal  

going into holes. Var- 

iations of infectious  

possibilities. You  


shouldn’t do it but the 

moment of distraction  

makes it worthwhile.  

Taking your hands off 


the wheel and feet off all 

the pedals at the moment 

the tyres lose their grip 

and just drifting. No 


hands, and the pirateers  

riding shotgun. It is 

mind blowing, leaving 

the subject with their  

mouth hanging uselessly  

open like the door of a 

blown safe or an 

atomic explosion that 


whips up all the debris  

and opens the  

doors of perception. 

We are subjects with  


a yawning chasm,   

stunned at the possibilities   

of frictionless borders 

and their easy passage.   









I can but 






just the light 


for Christ’s sake 


the light dull as a ditch  



when the poor  


wealthy they 

behave badly 


power in  


hands is not  

a reason to  

keep things  

as they are 


the lights leading 







[Ian Davidson (b.1957) was brought up and lived much of his life in Ynys Mon and Gwynedd in north west Wales and is a fluent Welsh speaker. After employment variously as a farmworker and builder, and some years working in Adult Education, he completed a PhD at Aberystwyth University and became a lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Bangor University. He has since worked at Northumbria University and is currently at University College Dublin. When not in Dublin he lives on a smallholding on the West Coast of Ireland. Recent and forthcoming poetry publications include 'Coming and Going' in Plumwood Mountain (2020), From a Council House in Connacht (Oystercatcher, 2021) and By Tiny Twisting Ways (Aquifer 2021).]






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