Patrick Deeley is a poet, memoirist and children’s writer from Mullagh, Loughrea, Co Galway. His seven collections with Dedalus Press include ‘The Bones of Creation’, ‘Groundswell: New and Selected Poems’, and ‘The End of the World’. He has won many awards for his writing, including The Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award, The Dermot Healy Poetry Prize, and The Eilis Dillon Book of the Year Award.
LOVERS IN PESARO
In the Museo – Adoration of the Shepherds,
Coronation of the Virgin, Flagellation
of Christ, the Eternal Father presiding
amid cloak and cloud. Medieval,
still fresh and vigorous, they shimmer
in our imaginations as we pass
through the hotel lobby where Mr. Putin
on a muted television descends
the red steps to his fourth coronation.
This the hottest May on record.
Trees lining the Viale exhale incense
of crumbling catkins. The Adriatic
rolling alongside murmurs sweet nothings.
Fellow guests tell us they are old.
Dare we say the same about ourselves?
All the years we’ve lived together,
the spending spree we make
of love, penury and leisure, the spell
that lifts us from heavy-footed routine
to light-headed wonder; a blister
on the heel or a shoulder crimsoned
with sunburn are trivial beside such proofs
of resilience. In our room
we pull the shutters against midnight
birdsong and full moon. The world
of greenhouse impacts and power-grabs,
even of cherished works of art,
slips from us who live, as we might hope
to die, by sigh and caress playing
on towards morning or towards eternity.
To think what stands against me still
is not the harm of falling
off a ladder at two-storey height, nor
the live wire that ran a chain
of blisters the length of my arm,
nor any amount of pulling and scraping
around the farm, but the bunch
of grapes I can still see nestling
on the side of the hairnet
the woman wore – long ago, I tell you,
long ago, under the chandeliers
of Killalaghton Hall. And the twist
in her name works the same
in my saying as if I am tasting some
sun-struck fruit of Italy
or Spain, not this plain draught of stout
I sup in The Spinning Wheel
after suffering a day of calumny
from neighbours and rain. But where,
despite the big things they say,
do any of these men go?
Surely, no less than me, they find
themselves shunted sideways
here, ours the one refusal, put gentle
or put crude. I feel it, earnest
and exact, the prospect of our lives
lost only through grind
of hardship, absence of kindness
begun early, still this thought has me
mistaking one thing for another,
mourning an old infatuation –
as if time has stopped just as the band
swings into a jaunty air
and, turning, I distinguish
the dark gemstone eyes of the woman
with a cluster of grapes in her hair.
THE LAZY WALL
The lucky charm, the happy hour,
the wishing well. And here
the lazy wall, low-sized, squat, seats us
slack-a-day while we wear it
as a gloss. This, our no-fee inquiry
on the town, looking right
and left and straight ahead
the high road up to the world again.
What good does it do, people
running their lives into the pavement,
nature’s drubbed dog snarling back
through trash and muck
and ransack of the wind?
“Take it easy,” we yell, “or the devil
will take ye.” They turn
their heads from us. We affect
the manner of swanks got out
from under the yoke of work, the ring
of domestic obligations,
the rain itself. Spend hours
serenading each other about places
we’ve never visited – who
were ‘no-hopers’ at school, who late
or soon developed a fondness
for cigarettes and booze, the counters
of bookies’ shops. Topers,
tail-laners, blowholes – it hardly
matters what you call us.
Odds are we will still be holding court,
said by ourselves, the underseers.