Patrick Devaney worked for eleven years in New York, before returning to Ireland to teach. He has published two books of poetry, four novels for teenagers and two for adults: ‘Through the Gate of Ivory’ and ‘Una Bhan:Flaxen-Haired Rebel’. He, now lives in Cavan.
Four poems by Patrick Devaney
Journeys in Lughnasa
(For my friend, Michael)
While we drove out to Brigit’s Garden
You were on a different journey.
Next day I phoned and you were gone.
No more chats with former fellow students
Over tea in the foyer of the Merrick,
Or just us two before a dockside joint,
Or in the kitchen of your Salthill home.
I recall your low-key unassuming
Stance, ready for any madcap dare:
That time we ventured too far out
While swimming at The Silver Strand,
Clambering up Kirkogue Mountain
To lunch on sandwiches and icicles,
Driving to Kylemore in your thirsty car,
Climbing a drainpipe to the cinema.
Between our student days
And my returning from New York
You flourished in your native city
Designing waterworks and drainage,
Then married your accomplished
Sweetheart, grew vegetables,
Rowed your children up the Corrib,
Tended that holiday home in Roundstone.
While I sought out the disappearing West
Of native speakers and The Quiet Man,
You were of the modern Galway,
Closer in spirit to Anglo-Normans
Than to marauding O’Flahertys,
And,though no template of devoutness,
Found comfort in communal prayer.
When next we visit Galway
And, walking past the cathedral,
Slowly cross the Salmon Weir
Into its memory-crowded downtown,
I’ll look for you rowing up the Corrib
Towards the hinterland of Brigit’s Garden
To celebrate the fruits of Lughnasa.
Maybe it’s best you went
After your autumn blaze
Beside the sombre yews
Dwindled to some gleams,
Schoolboys looted conkers
And you were left denuded,
Waiting for us
To fit you out with lights
To the anxious street.
Now tree surgeons won’t remove
With cold precision cankered limbs
So you can carry on enhancing
Springtime with those blossoms
Which roused to joy our greatest poet –
Though all the while decay proceeds
With incremental certainty;
Yes, I would choose an end like yours,
One day regally unbowed,
The next a pile of sawn-up wood.
The white rook’s not so rare
That you may not observe from time to time
One fluttering near the lofty grove
In which the jet-black votaries reside.
He tries to blend in with the flock,
Imitating their Parnassian calls,
Strutting on their stubble fields unchecked
When twilight makes his feathers dark.
The trueborn rooks are not deceived:
They pity this deluded, tone-deaf thing
Who won’t accept what destiny ordains:
White deflects the muse’s gleam,
I’m tired of holding out
Against this city,
Of keeping an ex-colonial’s
When viewing all that evidence
Of past imperial greatness:
Generals on their pedestals,
Memorials to fallen servicemen,
Lions with complacent gazes…
There are statues of its writers too
And Shakespeare’s recreated Globe
And all those ultramodern buildings
Jostling cut-stone period grandeur
On both sides of a mighty Thames
Enhanced by tourist boats and bridges,
Its memories of Wordsworth’s sonnet,
And Boudicca on her chariot
Charging the mother house of parliaments,
But most of all its parks,
Those diligently tended flowerbeds,
The mix of native and exotic birds
Populating lake-like waters,
And always round a bend
The heart lifting unexpected:
Horse Guards rigid on their mounts,
The earliest magnolias in bloom,
Giant pelicans standing on a rock,
An Ogham stone prominent
In the British Museum.