This poem is from the forthcoming Privacy Policy: The Poetics of Surveillance (Black Ocean), edited by Andrew Ridker. 


Rita Duffy: Watchtower 2


From here it looks as if the whole country is spread under a camouflage tarp

rolled out by successive British garrisons

stationed in Crossmaglen. As teenagers we worked our way through Iosagan    

 Agus Sgealta Eile while selling shocks and struts

from a tumbledown garage. Our vision of Four Green Fields shrinks to the olive drab

the Brits throw over everything. This must be their version of a tour d’horizon,

their scanners scanning our hillsides while we still try to scan

a verse by Padraig Pearse. One advantage of a farm that, as they say, bestrides

the border is how industrial diesel

dyed with a green dye ferries itself from the South into the North

by force of gravity alone. The fact that laundered diesel’s then worth

twice at much at the pump supports the usual                                                                       

tendencies of the punters to misjudge

our motives and see us as common criminals. Like seeing smoke in a paint smudge.


One of our neighbors, interned for selling An Phoblacht, learned we’re not the first tribe

to have been put down or the first to have risen

against our oppressors. That’s why we’ve always sided with the Redskin

and the Palestinian. It must be because steroids

are legal in the North but not the South the Brits like to eavesdrop

on our comings and goings. As for kerosene,

the fact that it’s cheaper in the North is enough to sicken

our happiness. That and the upstarts      

who try to horn in on our operation.  We’re in a constant tussle

with these Seoinins-come-lately, a constant back and forth

on the business of smuggling fuel. We run it through cat litter or fuller’s earth

to absolve it of the dye. By far the biggest hassle

is trying to get rid of the green sludge

left over from the process. It infiltrates our clothes. It’s impossible to budge.