Thursday, May 21, 2009

Guinness, tea and the vesper bell

Once I was in Dublin.

Dublin 8 to be more precise, out near the Guinness plant. I had some time to kill so I ducked into a small pub. Workingman’s place. Salt of the earth and all. Nothing at all fancy. Short bar. Four men at the bar, each nodding over their Guinness like old dray horses dozing over oat bags. I got up on a stool amongst them. At a table behind me was a sharp old man in tweed (think Paul’s grandfather in the movie Hard Day’s Night, but much smaller and older), sipping a hot tea. He and I were the only ones sober.

So I order a Guinness and the guy to my right raises his head when he hears my accent and says, “Where are you from?” and that gets into a general pub discussion of my trip. I told them that my wife and I had a list of things we wanted to do before we went back to the U.S. and one of the guys asks did we get everything done on our list. I said, well no, still working on it, whereupon the tea-drinking tweed-wearing old guy behind me asks what’s left to do. And I said, well, it’s a bit of a vanity project but I was hoping there’d be a poetry reading at Trinity College I could participate in.

Well that got them all up high in their seats and the fellow to my left says, “Well, let’s have a poem then!” and I said, Ah naw, and the guy two over to my right says, “Oh, listen to him, too good for us is he? We’re not the Trinity snoots he wants to impress.” 

I said, “Naw, it’s not like that. I’m just not very practiced at reading, you know?”

Well they kept after me and so I pulled out my notebook, which included a copy of a poem I had written some years previously in Ojai (California).  And with a bit of embarrassment I read it aloud:

Vesper Bell

The sun is rust and servants

seeking secret masters

follow down a dusky road

where a dead tree lifts its claw

to wavelengths of crow crossing

still bright, breathable air

and just now

the far red ridge turns blue

but against the window

your face glows cool,

your eyes collect warmth

like the moon

gathering daylight.


Through these small recognitions

I have witnessed the palette of your being

and in my daily acts of passage

I have loved you the more,

not simply for your beauty

but simply.


Ok, I finished reading and there was a silence in the pub. Then the man on the left says, “Well, that was that, then.”  


 The tea drinker pipes in, helpfully: “I understand poetry today isn’t the same thing as it used to be. I read that somewhere I believe.”


I buried myself in my Guinness and was down to the foam when the fellow immediately to my right leans over to me with a puzzled face and says quietly, confidentially, “So…she was a tart, you’re sayin’?”


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