Why We Leave – Gill Barr

Why We Leave

We children are told that we are moving
to the Waterside not far from our cousin.
We are pleased when we see the new house,
feel the scale of it, clatter up and down
the many stairs, lie on the new carpet,
smell the fresh paint, enjoy the airy rooms
without furniture, eat our lunch
like a picnic on the floor, but something’s
not right. Mammy is unhappy. She is crying.
She does not want to leave. She has lived
in the same streets all her life, no matter
that she is moving to a better house,
a bigger house – and safer.

On moving day we use a green van
that isn’t meant for removals. Mammy
is upset. In the van, she says out loud:
We are flittin’. She seems ashamed,
as if she has let the side down after all
these years. She doesn’t explain why
we can’t stay. We children cannot know
that our daddy has been threatened
in repeated late-night phone-calls,
has been told to get out
or face the consequences – he has been dragged
into an alley off Maureen Avenue and told at gunpoint
to get out or be shot.

Gill Barr’s poems have appeared in Bad LiliesThe Honest Ulsterman and The New European. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast and is appearing at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2022.

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