The city is a woman and I almost can’t look.
Someone has torn asunder her red and white dress
which was the gigantic For Sale sign, taken a scalpel
to her skin which was the façade of the Capitol Cinema
on Grand Parade, cleaved the flesh on the wall
of her chest which are red bricks and grey mortar,
clamped a rib-spreader on either shoulder
which are Tom Murphy’s Dress Hire and a late night
pharmacy, in order to hold back organs and tissue
which are dumper trucks, piles of rubble and a team
of men in hard hats and high visibility vests.
Nobody should be able to see right through
the lungs of the city like that, as if through the gaping
backside of a surgical gown, as far as Patrick Street
whose buildings are a row of vertebrae that boats
once navigated and where pedestrians now bustle
as if nothing remarkable has happened.
Human eyes weren’t meant to probe the dark
alveoli of abandoned rooms in the Oyster Tavern
from here, inspect the artery of Market Lane
or witness the scaffolding and steel girders holding up
the old Meat Market like surgical instruments.
Black plastic bandages flap in the wind amplifying
the persistent coughing of pneumatic drills
and all of a sudden there’s Auntie Anne on a red
velour seat hovering in a ghostly confetti of ticket stubs.
Two shillings and sixpence she paid to sit up there
in the balcony. Now the yellow scoop of a digger
is my mother’s hand manoeuvring a final Silk Cut
Purple to her lips, while the city holds the blue arm
of a crane across her breasts to hide her scars.