I wrote the next poem 'Drive' partly in tribute to my mother's driving which is excellent, and very fast. When I was writing the poems for my second book Drives I was learning to drive, very slowly, and I was a bit obsessed with it. There are lots of cars as well as planes and trains in the book.


My mother’s car is parked in the gravel
outside the house. A breeze springs
from the shore, and blows against this traffic sign
standing between the byroad and the main road
where somewhere a cricket ticks like a furious clock.
My mother’s car is an estimable motor,

a boxy thing — the car in which my mother,
during a morning’s work will sometimes drive
To Dundrum, Ballykinlar, Seaford, Clough,
‘Newcastle’,’Castlewellan’, ‘Analong’.
They drive along the old road and the new road –
my father, in beside her, reads the signs

as they escape him – for now they are empty signs,
now one name means as little as another;
the roads they drive along are fading roads.
— ‘Dromore’, ‘Banbridge’ (my father’s going to drive
my mother to distraction) ‘In Banbridge town …’, he sings.
She turns the car round, glancing at the clock

and thinks for a moment, turning back the clock,
of early marriage – love! – under the sign
of youth and youthful fortunes – back, in the spring,
the first great mystery, of life together:
my mother’s indefatigable drive
keeping them both on the straight and narrow road,

and, as they pass ‘Killough’ or ‘Drumaroad’,
she thinks of children – broods a while (cluck cluck),
on their beginnings (this last leg of this drive
leads back to the empty house which she takes as a sign) …
how does it work, she thinks, this little motor?
Where are its cogs, and parts and curly oiled springs

that make her now, improbably, the wellspring
of five full persons – out upon life’s highroads:
a grownup son, a gang of grownup daughters.
prodigal, profligate – with 30 years on their clocks?,
she doesn’t know, and isn’t one to assign
meaning to their ways, their worlds’ bewildering drives –

though she tells this offspring she’s nearing the end of the road
a clock ticks softly … the low pulse of some drive
My mother watches. She’s waiting for a sign …


from Drives (Jonathan Cape, 2008), © Leontia Flynn 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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