TRAVEL: Poem For Today by Joseph O’Connor

On Seeing Brendan Kennelly Looking in the Window of Hodges Figgis

By Joseph O’Connor

I think of you, Brendan, in hushed Dublin streets,
Walking at dawn past a shuttered store
Or pausing a moment to look at the statues
Of Goldsmith, Grattan, Connolly, Moore.
Grey gulls over Christchurch, the city still sleeping;
The burger bars closed and a rumour of snow.
Little to hear but the dawn alleluia
Of a Garda-car siren on Merrion Row.
Your mind rhyming melody, street-cry and humour,
Passionate memory, heart-aching loss;
Your heroes the ordinary; quiet Dublin widows
Hurrying in for early Mass
Past ghosts outside pubs in the hunger of morning,
Five-o-clock shadow men, shook by the fates;
Cromwells and Judases, waiting for openings;
The people unnoticed by cold-eyed Yeats.
I think of you, Brendan, walking The Liberties,
Meath Street and Francis Street, down towards The Coombe,
Watching the city in all of her vagaries
Wandering back to her lonely room.
Loving her streelings and early-hour homecomings,
The whip of her wit, and her dirty-faced talk,
You and the spirit of James Clarence Mangan
Sharing a coffee on Bachelors Walk.
I think of you, Brendan, drifting through Trinity,
Cobbles of history moistened by mist,
Head full of stanzas and jostling images,
Lovers you kissed by the rivers of Kerry.
The ferry from Tarbert traversing your memory;
Carrigafoyle in the dawn of the day,
The stream of your poetry flowing in eddies
From Béal Átha Longfoirt to Baile Áth Cliath.
Your shy smile by Bewleys, your handshake on Duke Street
One evening when August had glittered the town
And the windows all shining in mischievous cadence
With your stubble-cheeked grin, and your radiant frown
As you looked at the flower-sellers, told me a story
Told you in boyhood one Christmas night
By an old seanchaí with a hatful of characters;
Advent budded on Grafton Street.
Dawn-walker, teacher, lover of Dublin,
Leopold Bloom with the glistening eyes
Of a man who has seen all the ice-floes of folly
Drift down the Liffey and out towards the bay.
You pause on the bridges named for our poets.
I see you there, Brendan. You always knew
That words are a bridge on uncrossable rivers.
Beir bua, my brother. This bridge is for you
May be an image of 1 person, standing and outdoors
Brendan Kennelly, the Dublin poet, who was a regular speaker at the top table in the Sheraton Hotel for the annual Burns Night dinner organised by John Campbell, Bill Bergius and Silvia Corrieri of happy memory at the old Allied Distillers Company of Dumbarton. Dublin pictures by Bill Heaney

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