Issue 4

Thomas McCarthy
Four Poems


Cold daylight began to fade as we left Ballylee:
Yet another late September evening
In the long summer, the long shade, or something like that.

Water. Luminescence of tall grass after rain. Leaf turn.
Rusted leaves and water the colour of rust –
In a burst of late sunshine the tower bent to address us

And we stood like exhausted grandchildren, waiting
For its useless advice. A crow dripped from the side of its mouth,
Was wiped away by the breeze. We stood so still,

Hoping he wouldn’t ask us to do something, this towering
Old Grandpa; old sword-carrier, old dream catcher.
We turned with the gratitude of the nothing-left-to-give

And headed south to Gort. More heavy rain, water
As hard as stone, a schist of pure rain, and there,
In the mottled shelter of a stone wall, a hitch-hiker

Flags us down in hopeless hope: a Brazilian worker,
Heading South like ourselves through a Gort monsoon;
And going home, really home, to sunny Recife –

We worry and fuss over our intolerant country.
No, no, not that at all, Sir, no problem at all with Ireland,
But work could never console a man for such unbearable rain.


Who should have known better, being the son
Of a Latin adverb, spent his every waking hour
In forms of attack upon O’Connell and Moore:
His hatred of them went beyond the bounds of reason
Into the realm of translating both. Clongownians
And those schooled by Jesuit Royalists at St. Acheul
Were perplexed by his satires, but never asked why
A priest of such learning gave his life to small rhymes –

All a matter, surely, of fame; jealousy and its attendant despair:
How we are always sure that others suffer less for the palm
Than we have suffered. Fluent in French and Latin,
Demented with difficult rhymes, he heard St. Peters’
Bells as Shandon chimes: such Classical bells as make plain
That each poet has to run his very own marathon.