Poem introduction

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 …


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

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1Naming It

2Acts of Faith

3For Stuart, who accidentally obtained a job in the Civil Service

4When I was sixteen I met Seamus Heaney

5The Second Mrs de Winter

6Without Me

7The Furthest Distances I've Travelled

8By My Skin

9These Days

10Casablanca, backwards

11Leaving Belfast


13Samuel Beckett

14Olive Shreiner

15George Orwell's Death

16Alfred Hitchcock

17Charles Baudelaire's Mother

18F Scott Fitzgerald

19Dorothy Parker

20Elizabeth Bishop

21Robert Lowell 1&2

22Saturday in the Pool

23A head for figures

24Our Fathers



27Poem for an unborn child

28Robert, The Painter

29The Day We Discovered Pornography Catalogues in the Mail

30The Bullfight

31Inside Catedral Nueva

Books by Leontia Flynn