Border Question, by Peter Adair

The border is soft and soggy,
a 300-mile sick-making meringue
in which migrants, dissidents and sheep
sink down with gurgling screams
in the thick vomity goo.

A virtual Sir Geoffrey Donaldson MP
dons a tin-hat, khaki
and Dad’s Army badge.  He stands
to attention outside an invisible border post
saluting Chinese investors, Sunday school parties
and day trippers from the Irish Creationist Society.

From his bedroom in Bexley
a 17-year-old schoolboy taps at his tablet
supervising the mass electrocution
of every cow, pig and rabbit
that strays across into Little Free Britain
to infect our animals
with Europhilia, global glanders and sundry diseases.

Ex-paramilitaries halt oil-smuggling tankers
before waving their comrades through
after taking their cut.  Robots,
programmed to shout in Ulster-Scots,
patrol a thousand tracks and underground tunnels.
Each night over Newry fifty loudspeakers
blast out Sammy Wilson MP singing Slade’s greatest hits.

A sozzled replicant Winston Churchill
flees his epic bout of depression
on a manic tour of pill boxes, barbed wire and mines
while computerised bulldogs cheer
and a brass band and choir from England
bang out and sing hip hip hooray! hip hip hooray!
it’s happy border fantasy day.

Ruins by Peter Adair

after William Blake


This isn’t a town you’d like to visit.

Arriving one night, I wandered through streets

Whose lights were smashed, I stumbled with the blind.


No guide.  No map.  Wheelchairs, I think, were dumped

in alleys.  Beggars crawled on their knees, squeezing

their plastic cups like rosaries.  One man screamed


for help, but no one came.  I hurried past,

too numbed to care.  And outside an open window

a mother wept for her hungry child


while a drummer thumped out his merciless tune.  He,

at least, was getting high.  Then the window slammed shut,

crushing someone’s fingers, crushing someone’s hopes.


I wandered on through each darkened street

until the sky burned red and howled and cried

and a god, just waking, yawned and fell back asleep.


Like metallic Furies machines clanged clanged clanged

churning out their mind-forged manacles;

blood ran down the factory, the palace walls;


and the shade of William Blake went raging by,

appalled.  But no angel’s wings doused the flames,

resurrected the ruins, healed the sick.


No, this isn’t a town you’d like to visit.


Peter Adair won the Northern Ireland Funeral Services Poetry Competition in 2016.  His poems have appeared in The Honest Ulsterman, The Galway Review, FourXFour, Panning for Poems,Snakeskin, The Stare’s Nest and other journals.  He is a 12NOW (New Original Writer) with Lagan Online. He lives in Bangor, Northern Ireland, and can be found  on Twitter @padair226.

The Archer by Peter Adair

You were the archer who missed the mark,

the cyclist who lost his way in mist,

the runner fleeing his shadow.


When you fumbled your lines in school

Mr Brass snapped: ’Can’t you read, fool?’  Under

the ruck you curled up; studs trampled over you.


Rigid on the garden seat or clamped down for dinner

hands never touched.  The gods just nattered

on high or ate in silence.  You ached for praise.


How early were you broken?  Whose careless hand

one sunny morning shattered your glassy brain?

Those yells still echo, splinters pierce your skin.


Your heart or your nerves was the weak spot

the strong unerringly found.  Each arrow hit home

till you, the simple and blameless, were cut right through.


Bullies sniff their victim’s scent.  They marked you out

for sacrifice, smirking, laughing, dragging you

to the pyre where you shot back arrows from the flames,


taking a few bastards with you before your skin

charred, before you fell at the feet of a wise stone god

who once a week soothes and listens but cannot heal.

Legend Has It by Peter Adair

Prowling the corridors

he drizzled spit between buck-teeth.

He drilled through walls

for boys to hit.

He wielded a whip and a giant’s scissors

to snip hair.

And once – legend has it – he thrashed a boy to death

and stashed his corpse in a cupboard.


Divinity rippled through his gown.

His god favoured show trials

(the gulags were full).

His dandruff bombed rebels.

His nostril hairs bristled

when he sniffed out sin.


At assembly, copulating with the lectern,

he boomed through our brains

declaiming the Good News

to rows of bored faces

barbwired in uniforms.


Once he tried to fool us

blasting through the speakers

Cat Stevens’ Morning Has Broken.

‘Pull the other one,’ a boy whispered

and was zapped with a bolt from on high.


Years later – legend has it – on speech day

they wheeled him on stage to recall

breaking the backbone of youth,

star pupils who all did well,

dunces who took to drink

or wrote poetry.


As he ascended to heaven – legend has it –

arms flapping, gown billowing,

he changed into a gigantic noxious bug.

Devils quailed.

Angels trembled.

Jesus fled.


But that boy in the cupboard

(the boy he killed)

slipped up from hell grinning

and stuck a needle in the bug.


Guts, gas, rulers, canes,

chalk, goolies, bibles, brains –

all gushed out and swilled along heaven’s floor.



Only a speck remained.

The boy bowed to it, then stamped

it out, like rubbing a blackboard clean.

And then – legend has it –

he skipped back to his infernal desk,

put his feet up

and sang along to

Morning Has Broken.


Peter Adair lives in Bangor, N Ireland. Poems have appeared in The Honest Ulsterman, FourXFour at,The Stare’s Nest, Snakeskin, Panning for Poems and several other online magazines.