On Form

by Nick Laird

Standing at pump four
of the garage in Ballydehob
filling the Honda with diesel,
I want the counter to stop
at a round number, a whole euro,
so if the tank’s getting full
and the flow’s clicking off
I restart, easing out my finger
then tightening the trigger
until the digit ticks to zero.

I like to iron a white shirt
on mornings I’m hungover.
Sometimes I button it right
to the neck, neat-like. Unsure
exactly what it is I’m meant
to ask forgiveness for,
I do so anyway, but also want
this loud unpleasant static
on the speakers as my coffin
penetrates the curtain,

just like when my mother’s did.
My mother’s mother (widowed
young, five kids) kept a dairy
herd and never said much. I never
knew a farmer who said much.
The earth has a kind of hard
muteness that will do that.
Sometimes I can barely
keep my mother shut.
I mean my mouth. My mother’s

mother’s father William Shannon
found a stranger on his doorstep
and learned he had three days to flee
before the farmhouse would be set
alight with all of them inside it.
And my mother’s mother Martha,
her five sisters and six brothers,
and all the cattle and sheep
were herded on a chartered train
from Bantry to Cork to Armagh city.

My friend Bartek thinks only the Poles
should be allowed to write free verse
since they’ve watched their borders
shift so often, watched their homes
razed and then rebuilt them, watched
them burnt again and then rebuilt
them, and at some point you stop.
I know that every evil act I ever saw
committed had at its core
identity. When they exploded David

and our windows shook, that was
because of who he was, of what skin
he was born in. Ernie was on call
and among the first to reach the scene
and told me there was one torso
lodged in a tree, and it had not
been possible to identify them all,
and that’s irony, I suppose,
and all that one can do is stop
the counter’s roll at double zero.