Thursday, August 20, 1998

Omagh Bombing (prose) part 2


While Irish minds marvel over the Celtic inferiority complex. How much longer must we suffer? I think of Tocharian mummies 4000 years dead, in their plaids and sun tattoos, faces as familiar as kin, guarding the Silk Road.

Lately the news has been ladened with images of Ulster men and references to World War I, the Battle of the Somme. Or am I newly sensitized, how do I desensitize myself to it for the cosmic links and the laws of averages.

But the words Colrane, and the Foyle have a different attack on my psyche.

Neil is playing the Protestant priest in Frank McGuinnes's play, Behold the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. He is playing against type.

At the end they all put on their orange sashes, I didn't know what it signified, but it made me shudder anyway. O'Donnell Abu was the name of the song, we never called it the Old Orange Flute. It wasn't until I stood in Leiden looking upon the statue of King Billy, or William of Orange, that the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.

In late spring we used to suck on the oat grass joints, sweet with sap, piggyback thistles and oats from Europe, Spain and Scotland, non-native species. Always I've lived a life of identifying what belongs where, acutely aware that I'm a long way from the land of my ancestors.

I am Irish when it pleases them, or I am American when it pleases them. No one asks what pleases me. The blood of my ancestors, or the land of my birth, as if one annotated the other.

So what of those who came to Ulster? Are they Scots or Irish? Where does bloodline leave off, and nationality begin? And why is it so horrific? 

Neil chastises me for drinking his whisky, is if I'd asked for something unattainable, like his heart. The thornless magenta rose I planted is about to bloom and already he is asking me to leave. The potatoes have yet to be harvested, and he is asking me to leave because I might get too close.

Tobar is Irish for the well, the sacred spring. I drink sacred water uisce beatha. In every language, it is the water of life. Mea maxima culpa.

The summer fog lifts long enough to reveal the turquoise jewel of the bay and it resonates against the flame trees on Bay Street, and the rust red of the Golden Gate Bridge. The straits of Chrysopylae shimmer like molten gold.

Yes, this city is the city of judgment, the judgment of Paris, an apple in the lap of California on this 150th anniversary of the Gold Rush. Gold flakes in a bottle, a souvenir from the feather River, where I toiled for pieces of the sun. And put them in the vial.

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