Ashy coldness at the centre of his chest.
Cold as the grave the old people would have said.
A small dead bird in the middle of his chest –
hollow bones wrecked under a sleek of feathers.
He strokes her broken back. There, there, he says.
It’s not so bad, little bird. It’s over now.
But look – she stirs! Air fills her tiny lungs!
The little heart begins to beat again!
He crushes her brittle bones in his fist.
The last thing he wants is to let the air at it.
The last thing he wants is to raise the dead.
What he wants is to bury this mess
of a dead bird at the centre of his chest.
Then he can have room to breathe.
When it kicks off, you’re at the back of the crowd
by a police Land Rover. Small, bareheaded,
in trackies, baseball jacket and new trainers –
an hour before, you were at home in your pyjamas.
Unapprenticed freelancer, you’ve never been to a riot.
Growing up, a shaky-ceasefire kid, you got smacked
for playing Cowboys and Indians with a pop gun.
The nape of your neck glows white as you look down
for an instant, then you’re Lady Liberty with her torch,
holding your phone screen high to shoot the scene.
The pop-pop sound sends everyone else running.
Someone shouts There’s a fucking kid shot in the head.
After your death, from Belfast to Florida, your face
on murals. They say Lyra lives on. But that’s a lie.
SIOBHAN WARD grew up in the North of Ireland. She lives and works in London. She was commended in the Segora International Poetry Competition 2020.