Beyond the purple velvet drapes, the skeins
Of billowed gossamer, my hotel window
Looks down on the back gates of Trinity
College. Up three floors and pierced by a late
October sun, the room has been done up like
A swinger’s pad, with leopard print and leather,
With mirrors and conic shaded lights in orbit
About the dark mass of the pillowed bed.
This style was once regrettable. And now:
Now, all regrets are off. Tour buses crowd
Streets pounded, once, with fire from a British
Gun ship; wide streets once packed with bowlered clerks
Hastening to catch the train back to Roscommon
Two women, with whom I shared a cab
In from the airport, stared out at the palms
Grown in front gardens, shading Georgian doors,
And waited for some ginger-headed priest
Or pink-nosed drunk to trundle down the road.
My room’s a tiger of prosperity,
Designed by someone so assured that now
The exile ship and Eucharistic Congress
Are past, a buried fashion can be flirted
With; someone who would never understand
Why the tourist from Schaumburg or Roxbury
Would hustle past the brushed steel of the hotel
Bar, off to have a pint in Wicklow or
Sit down for tea and fry while sight-seeing Tara.
Why should the Polish maid in the corridor
Regret that things turned out this way? Here where
The sorrowed past was only lately lost?
It’s four years now since I last saw these streets,
Since I decided to move home, and since
I gave up on some other love, some other
Life, winding up in South Bend—and met you.
This city’s swelled with luck, and I could wish
It otherwise: the vomit in the late bars,
And ads for XXX on pay TV
That vend to hotel guests their “burning passions.”
The fields of Ireland have always wished
Things had been different—or that they were now.
Hilary, the mind obsessed with its own powers
Pretends that this or that decision, words
Called out to a shy woman in the dark
Of summer, with the river sounds, the sounds
Of drunken chatter and the swinging gate,
Might be unsaid, the rusting hinges shut,
Unknown. There may be many things undone,
About which I may think though they’ll not be,
As if they were lead figures on a board,
Subject in their position to my scrutiny.
But some thoughts said—once said—are sacraments;
They can’t be unconceived or lived without.
The great impossible is to unthink the path
And fortune’s fleet missteps that carried me on it,
That brought me to you, and you within my mind
To dwell as the immobile real called love.
Because of the odd shock, I’ve sometimes said,
“Had I stayed here, I’d not have met you”; but
No counter-factual alternate course in time
Seems less real. For, your actual love and being
Have made their print so firmly that I can
Neither think of a life without you nor
Quite think without your presence looming up:
Always, your eyes beneath dark hair, your voice
Rising with singular certainty to greet
Me in the silent rooms of every city.
A version of this poem has been published in the current issue of The Raintown Review, and will appear as the concluding poem of my next book, The Violent and the Fallen, forthcoming later this year from Finishing Line Press. The last copies of my first book of poem, Four Verse Letters, are still available from the author for a discounted price; please write to email@example.com to purchase.
One of the pleasures of republishing my poems from literary journals on FPR has been providing a little context or commentary to draw out their themes, and this one has always struck me as bearing upon some of the central themes of this site. And yet, I shall abstain from this pleasure for once, if only because this is a poem whose precise meaning I only properly grasped retrospectively; indeed, it took quite a bit of reading in authors I did not know when writing the poem to build up the vocabulary I needed to explain this poem to myself. So, at least this once, I’ll hopefully leave that pleasure of exploration to the reader who wants it, and spare the reader who does not the unsollicited pestering.