Poetry Week: A Galway Prayer

Yes, I’ve decided to have a poetry week here on Jasongill2015. Why? Why not? This isn’t particularly a poetry blog and I don’t really consider myself a poet. The poetic muse has always treated me very strangely. I remember rising from a bout of insomnia and spilling down two poems almost without thinking. Three years might have passed before I wrote another. So it goes.

This is the only poem I’ve ever been paid for. It also should have won me the only poetry slam I’ve ever competed in. Anxious as ever to ‘put on a show,’ I performed the poem in the style of John Cooper Clarke, thus preventing the poetry ‘expert’ who was judging the thing from realizing that it was actually an original poem.

Maybe the secret to success in life is figuring out just how much less is actually more. The poem is a tribute of sorts to the city of Galway in Ireland, a place unlike any other, even unlike itself, though you’ll probably have to read the poem to figure out what I mean. If you’re very bored, you could even try declaiming it like John Cooper Clarke. Go on, it’s fun.

A Prayer Of Galway

He lunged at human shape in a squall off the bay

A thing of grit and shale and envy. He became

Whole in the reek of wind and wet clay.

He ran gasping from the chemistry of doubt

And took his first flailing steps on the pummelled strand

Under that city no more real than he.

He patted and preened and checked himself out.

He kept his back to the fog that gave him form.

The wind pushed him east with fleshy promises;

He sought out his place in Galway myth.

 

Under the spasms of Eyre Square rain he wore

The malevolent stare of a wino,

His lank hair sodden, his ragged mouth cursing,

He denounced the world and other people’s money

In gap toothed broken sentences.

His loping gait frightened children

His balled fists made students clench.

He lunged from toilet to phone booth

Cursing the world’s shrinking store of pity.

He got his fists around a bottle

Its corrosive fire emboldened him

Before he lost it in a game of mental poker

And spoke of the hardness of men’s hearts

In gap toothed broken sentences.

Necessity and self-invention drove him to Shop Street,

His ancient checked suit, a relic of the Ford Capri age

Heavily pregnant with water, exhaled steam as a burst

Of wet sunlight illuminated the tourists and Antipodean girls.

Downtown Canberra trilled through Galway, its fruity voices

Raised in a chant of earthly delights.

He found a populous corner and unslung his scabbard,

His guitar looked like his suit, the first strums sounded crusty.

His face lost its wino redness, went pale like a holy picture,

His blotchy eyes were trendily hooded

As he gave them something classical.

Tired, curious Americans stopped and smiled,

Coins and notes began to drop.

Hassled students hefted their rucksacks through the

Wind and rain. And dreamed of joining the circus.

Bob Dylan and Classical Gas safely rendered

Into the roil of Galway air, he set his cap for Neacthains

A pot newly brimming with coinage.

In hardly and hour he was holding forth,

A scandalous tale of a writer he hardly knew,

A denunciation of other people’s money.

Shortly after six there entered a doe eyed curly girl

In whose mind he was a mythical colossus.

He locked eyes with her, he teased her,

You are so young, he said and thought,

So young, so young … what more can be said?

But she smiled back in a desperate ecstacy

And prayed to the gods of her bedroom.

As night fell in Dominick Street,

He donned the mantle of working class hero,

Denouncing other people’s money.

Round himself in a crusty bar he gathered

A cabal of paunchy, grey haired radicals,

Sixties bra twiddlers twirling their busty daughters

Through careers in Accountancy.

They talked of Marx and Castro, of JFK

And the great white plot. Of Stevie Wonder and John Denver.

The gravitas of their Guinness in the murky half-light

Gave weight to their sober dissertations,

As all agreed that Revolution and free love would follow

Once money was no more.

The night air held a sniff of music,

He excused himself from politics

And sat in on a session, dimly wondering if

The doe eyed girl would reappear,

If he should after all drink his fill of her youth.

Teenagers with full beards played and sang

Of Celtic heroes, of names in picture books.

He held a harangue with a cynical barman

And left whistling an aged tune past the

Lamplit dollhouse streets that flanked the Crane.

He beat a vague trail for the sea

Waiting for the moment when he, like

Cuchulainn, like Oisin, like Che Guevara and

Jim Morrison, would evaporate and become a

Thing of mist: only summoned back next morning

By the pitiless Galway wind.

And as he neared his nexus of dissipation,

He forced his shrinking eyes backward,

Saw the piers and tinkling arcades of Salthill,

The pylons, glass and Cathedral spire

Turn to mist and become no more

Till their summons back next morning

By the pitiless western wind.

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