Canto CCXCIII

Watching my ancestral homeland lose
another game of continental footie
at least serves as a good enough excuse

to quaff a few cold beers. Italian ’90
was lost in the mist of my teenage angst,
and so, like those inebriate Japanese

who toast the blown blossom’s evanescence,
I toast the sharpness of Ukrainian grass,
our defence with more holes than a tramps pants,

the world can kiss my plastic paddy arse.

Canto CCLXXXIX

Those moments when your dear national team
are made to look like games lesson last picks—
the ones that lost their kit before the game

and played in vest and pants, having to kick
about in leather school shoes and black socks.
Cannon fodder for the sure and slick,

the first team’s whipping boys, barely marked
but tackled as soon as they get the ball.
And yet despite the route in the ball park,

the fans sing out their sorrows til they all
become the loudest chorus in Ukraine.
We sing on though we’re certain to default

in paying a four goal deficit to Spain.

Canto CCLXXXV

It’s raining on our anniversary
and June’s bright sun skulks behind wadded clouds,
but we’re the furthest thing from misery,

though lack of sleep has sandpapered our moods
and daughter’s last poo stank of rotten cheese,
happiness and mad love still intrude

as we relive phone camera memories
of our best day til we feel we’re still there.
I sit down to watch Ireland play footie

and reacquaint myself with true despair.

Canto CC

Most days I feel about as Irish as
a barrel in the Leicester Square O’Neils;
those stupid, spongy, bright green Guinness hats;

U2’s fanbase; poets that tell tales
of rural strife but teach at NYU—
and don’t forget St Patrick came from Wales.

I don’t feel English either but the truth
is that my Paddyness is truly plastic,
but more than most Irish Americans whose

Irish blood is feckin’ homoeopathic.

Canto XCVI

You ask me why I’ve not removed this ink,
this Celtic Cross tattooed on my right arm,
despite the fact that nowadays I think

that God’s a fiction. Watch the pigments turn
from clotted black to muddy, vein-like green.
Does this not illustrate how faith can wane?

If not, then let me try a different scene,
a storm tossed island off the Galway coast,
the same one Roethke spent some time upon,

where I left the small inn and headed west
to where the landscape turns to rock and mud,
where, blinded by the drizzle and the mist,

you can stroll off a cliff, just like that, dead,
which almost happened a few times before
I saw a bob of seals just up ahead,

down on the rocks. I wanted to see more,
perhaps they’d let me brush my primate hand
across each blubbery ripple of their fur?

But as I headed down to them I found
a steel cross, six foot high, facing out
into the north Atlantic where the wind

will find no trace of land until it hits
the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador
and I felt moved to kneel down, genuflect

and offer up a gently worded prayer
before I headed back towards the inn
to binge on Guinness ’til the early hours.

That’s when I heard the tale—the two young men
that climbed onto the rocks to watch the seals,
both lost forever as the tide came in.

The iron cross was their memorial,
the very cross that kept me from their fate,
though a safety notice might have worked as well…

That’s why this cross remains, I’ll let it fade,
as all must fade, it serves to tell a tale,
as do these wrinkles, scars, these flecks of grey

that glint within my hair and my stubble.
I’ll leave the censorship to time’s slow hand,
as the landlord’s hand grasps for the closing bell,

now reach into those pockets, it’s your round.

Canto LXIX

I will run today, through the thin sheets
of drizzle Irish champions wear with pride.
After that I’ll go on to complete

those applications I pushed to one side.
I won’t write an O’Hara parody
entitled “The Day Smokin’ Joe Died”

because we did it for Michael and Amy.
Today my business is with the living,
though still, the dead assemble in their armies

on bookshelves, radio playlists, sometimes waving
from photographs, the grainy afterlife,
the light they gave to silver gelatin.

We cannot beat them, we are but the waifs
that scurry in their shadows, though we wield
another weapon to absolve the grief

and guilt of our surviving, for we hold
the prospects of the lives we can deliver,
to double up our wide, ancestral worlds—

the rain of Cork and, sorry Joe, Manila.

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