My grey, brooding, dirty, old forever town. The country bus spewed me out one Sunday night and never found me again. Trinity’s grey walls encircled me. Enough books in Berkeley’s library, even for me.
Unlike him and old Ed Burke, we founded our enlightenment in the soft afternoon glow of a stained glass pub window. Talkin’ to an auld fella. About poetry. Or painting. Or maybe politics.
There was a lot of politics in Ireland back then.
Artists critiquing their rival’s work on the walls in Grogans. Writers bitching in the Fleet. Folk songs and revolution in the Cobblestone. Everyone piled in on top of each other in O’Donohues after a good funeral, roaring and shouting over creamy heads.
Come on now ladies and gentlemen! Drink up! Have ye no homes to go to!
One night, a crowd of new fellas appeared at the doorway of the snug where I was warming up in Doheny and Nesbitt’s, waving a wad around.
Enough talking lads, there’s money to be made…. let’s get to work.
We all peeled off, got ourselves one of them brand new, shiny, knowledge economy jobs.
The boys stopped shooting each other up north.
We ran riot on the Nasdaq.
Bono got bored with us and went global. Never mind, every band in the world came to play and we were all on the guest list.
Standing around in our Jimmy Choos all sexy and citified, texting each other the next instalment of our very own show – Celtic Tigers.
Starring a horde of red-freckled-beer-bellied, Armani-drenched Paddies, hoovering up Mediterranean resorts and coke in equal quantities; lining up in the drizzle to drink Russian vodka in a Manhattan martini bar served by a French sommelier with a Polish accent.
Or was it Ukrainian vodka in an Italian martini bar from a Latvian economist?
One time for sure, it was Mongolian vodka in a tapas bar served by Yale students over trying to make a buck.
That was a good episode.
After a while, I came to be a little tired of all the new talk. Of yak leather sofas and Southern Cape cellars and ‘will we helicopter to the races’ and ‘how many apartments in Portugal now, Mick?’
So I went looking for an auld fella.
I tried the Palace. I tried the Fleet. I even held my nose and stuck my head into stinky old Grogans.
Not an auld fella to be had anywhere.
Down on the quays trying to hail a cab, I found one asleep under a construction crane and shook him awake. It was cold and he didn’t want to talk about poetry. But for old time’s sake he asked me to buy him a drink.
Get an effin’ job, I ses to him, walking away with my nose buried in my Nokia.
Which is how I came to bump into the ghost of Paddy Kavanagh.
King of the Auld Fellas.
Queenie, he sighed, don’t you remember what I taught you?
To my shame I could not find the words, so the canal-bank trees whispered them to me.
Every old man I see
Reminds me of my father
When he had fallen in love with death
One time when the sheaves were gathered.
That man I saw in Gardner Street
Stumbled on the kerb was one,
He stared at me half-eyed,
I might have been his son.
My eyes started brimming. Paddy took pity on me. Which everyone would tell you was unusual for him, miserable aul’ fella that he was. Queenie, he said,
Your soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven
From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven
Next day I packed my bags and left you forever, Dublin. I flew out over the cranes and the trucks and the Disney Guinness and the apartment blocks, my heart bleeding down on them in a cold empty drizzle.
If you do not love me I shall not be loved. If I do not love you I shall not love.
We forgot ourselves, didn’t we …
I hear the lads with the wads are missing. And the wads have disappeared. And everyone’s blaming somebody else.
I went home to see were you alright, my dirty old forever town. Together we breathed in the hops from the brewery and walked in the mizzle along the spine of the city: the Garden of Remembrance to the GPO, across the bridge past Trinity’s grey gate. Up Dame St. to Christchurch and beyond into the Liberties, where no one ever had a wad that was big enough to go missing.
I met an auld fella I knew.
Jaysus, Queenie, is it really you?
I heard you got eaten by a bear.
Not me, Brother Rabbit.
Queenie travelled from Ireland some years ago, stayed, and eventually fetched up in East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia. Near the beach. Near the lake. Near the woods. She tries to see the beauty in small things. You can find her blog at Essays from East Lawrencetown.