I drove through the narrow Gods—
privet and cholesterol, or
Irish creamery butter as the waiter
called it, as it shaved another day
off my life. There was no salt
and antimony, just lumpy roads
through Meath and Leitrim.
The sky was a show of flashing
mirrors as day broke on Rosses.
Tide out and weed like cow pies
on the shore. The punt down and
the EEC on the horizon,
as I read in the guidebook about pilgrims
climbing St. Patrick’s barefoot
Out of the fog a man in Wranglers and
spurred boots, clean-shaven, a cigarette
in hand, waved me down.
“Scrum faced house at the end of the bay.”
“Hop in,” I said. “You lookin’
for where John Wayne made The Quiet Man?”
“No.” “American?” “Yep.” “Don’t look it.
You Jewish too?” “No.”
The fog was lifting off the fern-scalded
mountains across the bay, and the sheep
marked red and blue looked like sweaters.
“Grace O’Malley hijacked British
ships up here, and the Choctaws
sent $500 during the famine. Not a fuckin’ penny from the U.S.”
We passed the rusted hulls
of fishing boats and the scaffolding
of floating mussel beds.
“The Downing Street Accord is lots of
shit; Adams’ a frog on an oil slick.
When Lord Haw Haw broadcast for the Nazis
from right here, do ya think he was
a traitor or a patriot? … to us, I mean?”
I couldn’t bring myself to tell him
I was on sabbatical and looking for
a place to write.
“They’ll turn the bog to Marks & Spencer anyway.”
“I’m looking for Knock-Na-Rae.”
“Maeve’s mountain? Two hours from
here in the other direction.”
I dropped him at the scrum house
half roofless and cracked,
where the sky seemed lower than the rocks
and the hills the color
of red sheep.
© Peter Balakian