to my father
his great bulging eye
amid the stadium’s temper
amid the furies and exultations
of the great-coated stands,
as he lopes in a bull’s diagonal goalward.
of ball on broad bas,
on his stick of ashy liquidity
that’s rippling, eel-flexible, alive.
And now his body it is liquid too,
an impressionist version of itself
as he slights the wall of three defenders,
pours himself through some improbable gap
and on the other side resolidifies.
Is it only in his own mind
the underwater silence for his backswing,
for his shape’s familiar coil into potential,
for the glance, the pull and the connection?
And the cork-hearted ball
becomes nothing at all,
is too nimble, too cute for the eye
and the goalkeeper’s beaten,
and Clare and Tipp and Kilkenny are beaten
and the terraces inhale themselves
and the air is vibrating in shock and in awe.
Patricia Horgan’s was the last face he saw.
She stepped out for the messages
and walked into history.
She went to buy butter
and became a minor character.
His chest clenched, clenched and accelerated,
bucked and ratcheted,
in the eye of the forming throng
as he flopped there watching
behind her cow-eyed gentle expression
the usual mergers of cumulus, a crow,
and the gulls at their shrill affairs over Morrison’s Island
until the clouds themselves clouded over.
She said: Ní fhéadfá an fear sin a adhlacadh,
Mór an peaca an fear sin a adhlacadh.
You couldn’t bury that man.
It’d be a sin to bury that man.
And to this day I still can’t bury Christy Ring.
We’ll carry his washed and scented remains,
in procession, by candlelight, by handheld electric light,
from the cemetery at Cloyne
to an undisclosed location in the Midlands,
shoulder him into a mossed-over dome,
to the burial room
through the long corbelled tunnel,
and in that chamber of must and slow-tutting stones
lay him out on a bier of amethyst
that’s been carved, that’s been perfumed
with palm and with cinnamon.
And on all sides
the surprisingly petite skeletons of our ancestors,
the priests, the chieftains,
all the princes of swordplay and laughter:
their careful lines of dowry and cousinship
all merged in a carpet of loam,
the victories, the enmities rusted,
and the quarrels, ah the quarrels all gone,
the quarrels all long processed by worms.
Leave him there in that society of bone
and walk back through sock-drenching grasses,
the spiders and the daisies, watercresses,
past one particular field of rape outside Edgeworthstown
that stretches in primrose,
that soaks up the buttery sunlight of late morning,
that never knew his name to forget it.