DISCOVERING ME

They were always almost mythological,
heroes of a people I could only
imagine as my own, knowing I came
from a far different place, one
of shtetls and pogroms, of seaside
villages, the beaches of Cascais.
It was half a lie, but I couldn’t
know it then, couldn’t guess
my dream was reality, my reality
a dream torn away by DNA.
In a moment my unknown Portuguese
father was unborn, replaced
by a faceless man of Celtic
soil who marched to the piper
highland or uillean, the bodhran,
who stood alongside Pearse
and Connolly, Bonnie Charlie,
and a century on, I’ll lift
a pint of Guinness in their honor,
take a wee dram of Talisker
and whisper Slainte to
the unknown generations
that brought me here.

A NIGHT AT THE ROSE

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.

FERRYMAN

He comes to me
in the dead hour of night
the old shriveled man
poling his poor ferry
across the river of my dreams.
He comes when
the moon has fled
and the stars fall mute
and he beckons me
holding out the copper coins
stating his fare.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I show him
the butterfly perched
on the window box
his wings folded
darkly iridescent
a tissue paper opal
awaiting the first sun.

He comes to me, beckoning
and for his fare
I hold the rose
beneath his nose letting
the carmine velvet petals
caress his nostrils
as he smells the luscious
aroma that bathes his face.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I pass to him
the crystal goblet
of the sauterne
and he sips
as it washes over
his tongue, tasting
of honey and fruit.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I give him the voice
of Wolfgang’s strings
of Johann’s harp
of Ludwig’s piano
of Callas, Pavarotti,
the symphony of the rain forest
the sonata of the surf.

He comes to me, beckoning,
and for his fare
I give him a picture
of the young child tugging
my hand, as he pulls me
to see something marvelous
he has just discovered,
his laughter deafening.

He comes to me
in the dead hour of night
the old shriveled man
poling his poor ferry
across the river of my dreams.
Each time he retreats,
the fragile boat empty
his fare uncollected.

CLIFDEN MORNING

They were meanderers, gypsies of sorts, but never Tinkers, never an lucht siúil. They never travelled far, preferring the comforts of where they called home. They knew they wheren’t liked, weren’t really welcome here. They would be tolerated here perhaps, never fully accepted in good company. But they’d grown too numerous to ignore. They walked slowly across the street, meandered. It wasn’t clear where they were headed, they gave no indication. They liked the privacy of their thoughts. Perhaps to the Pharmacy, but Market Street was the long way there. It might have been to Manions, but their ever so black faces said they’d be less than welcome in the public house. I paid them no real heed until they began following me. I turned, stepping off Market off the curb and into the street, turned,  scratched the ewe behind her ears. I tried to tell her that a Scottish blackface had no business in the heart of Connemara, but a quick swipe of her tongue on my hand told me otherwise.