Michael Boyle’s poems of exile and return

Going Back Home Again

When are you going back?”
Often I reply-
I have an open ticket.

Cups of tea full of sugar and milk
The full Irish or Ulster fry
Somber heart felt chat
by stony graveyard walls.
Old paths – now jungle under growths
You wonder where time went.
No one here knows you anymore.
A couple of older neighbors
still tell how I was P J’s wee fellah
who fell in the pump.

Memories and old stories revised
for a new generation.
Friendly banter in the local pub
I had clean forgot
but don’t talk too loud
for everyone in the whole bar
is listening for you to mess up.
Someone might say to you.
“In the olden days
when people left here
–they really left
and never came back”


The Irish philosopher John Moriarty said.
“When emigrants return to the house
in which they were born,
they should come un-announced
and have walked the last two miles alone.
They need this time to hear
what the landscape is speaking to them.”

Once I was being driven home
from Belfast Airport in a downpour.
I had a plan as the green-patched fields
and pebble-dashed houses marched past
the car window. Nearing our home town land
I asked my brother Sean to stop his car
by the stream at the ash tree.
This marked the border
between Mayogall and Drummuck.
The car slowed, I opened
the door and let my left foot
touch Drummuck soil.
My sister Maire and Saveen
in the back seat wondered
Before I die I will try again.
No luggage. No texts.
No phone calls or emails.
Because I really need to walk
those last two miles on my own.

Michael Boyle is a native of Lavey, Derry, Ireland. His poems have appeared in the The Antigonish ReviewDalhousie ReviewTinteán and New Ulster Writing. He was awarded ‘The Arts and Letters’ prize for poetry in 2014 by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. He currently lives in St John’s New Foundland, where he conducts a historical walking tour.

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