They say you must cherish your memories lest they slip away in the night, trying for a freedom you deny them.
I remember Ireland, knowing it was home although at the time I thought I was Ashkenazi and Portuguese, but my genes were trying to tell me something.
I remember driving a stick shift down narrow roads, always keeping in mind the advice, “if you hear the branches of the yellow gorse against the side of the car you’re fine, if you hear the stone of the fences you’ll have a large bill when you return the car.
When I was younger (much), I could wander Manhattan and be what any neighborhood required, so long as I stayed south of 110th Street or north of 155th.
I was Greek ordering gyros, Russian at the Tea Room, Italian along Mulberry and Canal, although in Chinatown I was just someone who wandered a bit far from the heart of Little Italy.
I could order deli at the Stage like a local, and complain about the pastrami no matter how lean it actually was, and lift a couple of pints at Tommy Makem’s Pavilion listening to trad music late in the night.
Now I walk around man made lakes in Florida, and cook the ethnic foods so lacking here, a bit of heaven, but really, Cheesecake Factory is not now and never will be fine dining.
With the stroke of a pen, they enabled me to write the story, gave a framework on which I could hang all manner of dreams and assumptions, inviting a search I never quite got around to making.
I wandered the beaches of Estoril in my dreams, stalked the avenues of Lisbon, looking for a familiar face, but found only ghosts.
With the stroke of a swab inside my cheek, a vial of saliva mailed, the story came apart, and a new story slowly unfolded, gone forever was Iberia, replaced by Scotland and Ireland, Wales, Norway and Germany, and my dreams were filled with the music of the bodhran and Highland pipes.
When you ask me of the sea, living, as I do, fifteen miles from the nearest ocean, it is not the sandy beaches of Hutchinson Island I recall, nor the crowded sandbox that is Fort Lauderdale’s beach.
If you ask me of the sea, it is perched on the horizon, far in the distance, looking out of the kitchen window, or perhaps that of the library, over the yard, with its deflated soccer ball, the fence, and finally to the Irish Sea, cloud shrouded at the horizon.
This is what Lloyd George saw each day, so it is little wonder eschewed burial in London or even England for this hidden estate in his beloved Ty Newydd in Wales.
First published in Dreich, Issue 10, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)
The great minds in Transportation have decided that the answer to all traffic problems is simple, you replace troublesome intersections with traffic circles, but you call them roundabouts. They know that the young and wish they were in their muscle cars will avoid them like the plague, for even they cannot defeat centrifugal force, and inertia is one thing they never lack. And for the old, the plodding, either they won’t enter the circle, or will revolve around its center like a small planet bound tightly to its star marking the center, and then only after they have paused for an indeterminite period, trying to figure out how to get in, where to get out and wishing they had called Uber to begin with. And I, behind them know, I can take this time to get in a day’s meditation counting my breath.
Three beers over two hours
and, giddy, I want to sing
along with the Irish house band
in my horribly off key voice,
just two choruses
of Irish Rover or Four Green Fields.
It’s beginning to snow outside
and it’s a four-block walk
to the Government Center station.
I suppose it would sober me up
but a couple of more songs
couldn’t hurt, I’ve got two hours
before the last train and we can
walk across the campus
through the tunnels
once we’re back in Cambridge.
I probably should have gone
with Coors or Bud Lite
but Guinness is, all said,
a meal in a glass.
I would stand now,
but my knees seem
comatose, so let’s sing
to Auld Robbie, a verse or two
of Scots Wa Hae, it’s damn
near Irish anyway
and from this seat
in the Black Rose
Cambridge is a world away.
First Published in Celt at Aberffraw (Wales, UK) 2000
Cheever was having a bad day, that much was immediately obvious. Perhaps it was the two martini’s in town before lunch, but he says it only made him giddy. We all know better and by late afternoon his mood has soured completely, his emotions have slipped back into turmoil. He says a few cocktails will cure him, or at least make him bearable. He will soon consider AA again, drinking dry the liquor cabinet in the consideration. Elsewhere and in another time, Borges reminds us, an Irish poet, held prisoner in the last days of the Irish civil war, knows he will be executed in the morning, and so slips out of the house that serves as his prison, and into the water icy, frigid, now hating the Barrow river. He swims as best he can, promising that if the river god allows him to live he will present her with two swans. He does live, he does place two swans onto the river the following spring, and he dreams one day of visiting Coole.