This poem was published in The SHOp (RIP) issue 13 Autumn/Winter 2003. I loved The SHOp more than any other magazine, I'm bereft now that it has closed its doors. Nothing gave me more of a deep gutted buzz than getting poems in that wonderful magazine. Your first time is always special, this was my first time in The SHOp and it is the only time I've ever written a poem with a mag in mind.
They put it on the last page, I always think (wrongly perhaps) that the best poem goes first and then a good one last in a mag to finish off, so I was extra pleased. I really wanted the first page in The SHOp but never reached that dizzying height, but I did have the front cover of issue 30 which was a dream come true.
The poem is inspired by my mother's father Francis Timoney who was born in Sligo and was wilder than a bush. He joined the British Army at 15 years of age for adventure, for something to do, he fought through the first world war and survived the battle of the Somme, he cooked and ate dog in the trenches and was deafened in one ear by a shell burst. Back home in Ireland he fought for Ireland against his old British comrades in the war of independence, again without a scratch. Finally,fighting on De Velera's side in the subsequent civil war he got shot in both legs on a raid on a barracks in Manorhamilton. One leg was amputated and the other kept a bullet lodged til the day he died . While convalescing from his operation he fell in love with a young nurse, Philomena Hayes and they got married soon after.
They had 'the two days of it' good times and bad times. Francis (Frank), once a fine athlete (winning many running and triple jump medals in the army) now flew around on crutches, lord alone knows what flew around in his head. A lot of horrific things. He drank. They moved from country to town and back again looking for the thing that would find him (an ufindable) peace.
Frank and Philomena had two children, my mother Carmel Imelda and her brother ,Alphonsus Cyril, who quickly changed his name to Timmy, well you would wouldn't you? Carmel and Timmy attended 12 different schools and lived at approximately 20 different addresses around Dublin and half the country. When there was no money,which was most of the time, they were happy, when there was money there was drink, serious drink. Always loving, always kind, but drunk, very, very drunk and all the mad episodes and adventures that go along with it.
He died at 87 years of age alone and unmanageable (but not mad) in a fairly Dickensian mental hospital in Mullingar. We used to visit him, when I was a small child he was old,in a wheelchair and in constant pain from his wounds which never really healed. I've never encountered such incredible toughness and sadness in a human, he had the most beautiful kind blue eyes.I'll never forget.
The Timoneys lived in Capel street for a while, the nearest bar was Slattery's, Frank drank there a lot, so whenever I was in Dublin I always headed to Slattery's in Granddad's honour. It was an interesting, old school pub, no frills, I liked it, then they did it up. It felt like a link was broken. So I wrote this poem for me, for Frank, for The SHOp. It became the title poem of my first collection from Salmon Poetry. It means a lot to me.
Along Capel Street I stagger into Slattery’s
and stagger out again to be sure I have my wits.
What the hell have they done?
Is nothing sacred?
Is anything safe from their blandiose renaissance?
A curse on them whoever they are.
I barrel on to the Quays singing or talking to myself,
corpulent with drink and struggling
to re-inflate between bursts of song.
Filled with stupid elation
and fuelled on pints of stout,
I gaze wide-eyed and blowing,
at the new found beauty of herself,
Spanned by an arch the whiter shade of pale,
her waters are expressive fecund and inviting.
With undulating, warm, open arms of green
she calls to me in clamshells of desire.
Wanting to be smothered within
and bursting for a leak,
I express myself,
let fly the floodgates,
a stream of pee to the pea green below,
relief and satisfaction in equal measure.
They’ll never take the piss out of Dublin