for Mark Sheeran

You’d remember to lower
your corner boy voice
sinking into the luxury sofa
under the dizzy roof, and
attune it to the tameness
of the murmur and talk
reaching you at a regular
level of decibels from the polished
kingdom, the inner realm
of the Victorian hotel.

Looking out on the gazebo
looking out on the harbour,
you too could feel
the pride surging in your chest
as her majesty’s fleet came in
all pennons flying
around Howth, except
for some anger passing through the gall
bladder having eaten
too much quail for dinner.

I was hoping for Zorro to come
with his glistening rapier
in one fearless bound
from chandelier to chandelier
a hawk among the pigeons
with their soft cooings
their gentle rolling Rrrrs
landing on their beak
like a paper aeroplane
on the carpet.

Feathers flying
birds scattering hither
and thither
not knowing were they coming around
or losing it more by the minute
in the mirror above the mantlepiece
that doubles the space
with bureaucratic haughtiness
in Whitehall, a fatal line streaking
through the sacred aboriginal curve
with proven ink.

We were deep in conversation
when a woman topped by a blue
steely mop stole the chair.
An Iron lady to be sure,
shouting bingo numbers
from the thick of things.
We decided to ignore her completely
until we came
to our own sacred space in the discussion
on that shaky bridge
between the clear shore here
the hazy shore still beyond
but certainly in the woods.

Full House! She yelled
and we were weak with laughter.
We knew no matter
how often we find a clearing
in the undergrowth, there’s always
some Iron lady or another
ready as a bullet in the breech
to roar her lungs out
with profanities.


Translated from the Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock