bel fast

By Rose Winter

I say Belfast all wrong, 
I say belfaast 
Not bel fast 
You’ll know what I mean if you know this place. 

And my partner of years 
Who sometimes says, all quiet, 
Ok, let’s go back to Béal Feirste. 
And I’m never sure who they’re saying it like this to exclude. 
If it’s an inside thing, 
Or if I am inside. 

I say Belfast all wrong, 
But I should know better. 

I was small once and lived in Lisburn, 
Too young to remember once we’d left 
What anything was like in the North. 

My mother brought me back, 
On several flights from wherever far we were by then, 
Nearly two decades after I knew to say ‘wee’. 

The nights were short and dark and full of unknown, 
university halls and black-painted bars. 
My head full of words like imposter. 
Those first nights in Belfast. 
But they weren’t the first, I just had no proof. 

No proof of belonging. 
A girl with red hair and an accent from London, 
Conjured from years of movement and neutrality. 

No one would believe me if I told them how 
My mother’s mother and father and sister and cousins and family and heritage and past, all from Dublin. 

How I had only met the Irish cousins once, at a funeral. 
How their hair was long and their stories went on 
And how I wished we could have stayed to hear them. 

But now I say Belfast all wrong, 
And love here, anew.

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