Waitin’ for friends outside outlandish restaurant,
hear through hubbub               beat of arrhythmic heart,
tap tap, tap tap tap, tapety tap, tap
& glance up Patrick’s Hill. Emerges man
wieldin’ wand, fairytale stuff               smack
in the middle of bustlin’ Cork. He nonchalantly sails
through streams of shoppers; nine-to-fivers flow
around the wizard the way a rush of river
separates before a rock               & then rejoins.
Closer still, his stick strikes child in me as cross
between spindly cowcatcher & half a hungry ant’s antenna.
He detects the odd concrete step jut out from building,
pavement give way to grate, steep downhill shift
to sudden step, raised curb switch to narrow outer stretch
of sidewalk. (Did I say sidewalk? Sweet Jesus but the sidewalks
of downtown Cork are tricky enough for 20-20 youth.)
Yet for all this he walks unafraid,               tap taps
aware each step could conclude in collision
with who knows whom or what.
He stabs a tumbling sack of       trash, swerves,
keeps sense of overall direction          sure
as if explorer’s compass in his outstretched hand.

When I ask in general, ‘What’s it take to so persist? ‘ ,
from Sunday’s Well arrives this song:
‘Once upon a time set forth,
the Magi know no doubt about true North,
ne’er forget where oft unseen-by-man sun sets.
Each step a quest into a new unknown
where fast as starlight they’re at home.’

As song fades I see comin’ like an accident eager to happen,
the busiest crossin’ in Cork, just east of Patrick’s Bridge,
so skip waitin’ for friends & ask if I may help
this third millennium magus down uneven steps
& weave him through crowded chaos of roadwork mixed
with revving rush hour jam.                He welcomes hand
gripping upper arm               & down down we go,
me warning of what’s a mere two steps below.
Before we finish crossin’ dodgy thoroughfare, we’ve introduced
ourselves, found mutual friend, had a laugh. After a quick
heartfelt-transition-bridge goodbye, I’m drawn in to tale:
Jaywalkin’ MacCurtain Street I wonder, Don’t we all step out
with white-tipped canes made of what we’ve gained
on earlier sallyings forth?        Why,
whether we’re aware or not, l dimly see,
we’re all goin’—though maybe less courageously than he—
tap tap, tap tap tap, tapety tap, tap.