My Irish vacation
In the Brazen Head Pub, founded 1159,
we watched two men argue about God
and homosexuality, their pint glasses
holding rings of dried beer foam
marking their awkward pauses in debate.
It ended with one man quoting scripture
and the other abruptly standing from the table
with a clatter of rattling glass and wood,
a gruff cordiality tested by the other’s shouts of,
“You’re either a prince or a pauper,
and you, sir, are no pauper!”
The streets of Dublin were uneven and grim
in their well-worn allure,
walkways of time-skewed cobblestones
playing roulette with the ankle joints
of distracted tourists searching for St. James Gate.
A pint of Guinness spins its brown and black magic
like a galaxy’s stardust rim,
gradually revealed over the city each night
and carried until sunrise in the eyes of the drunks.
I dozed, listlessly leaned against the window of a train
as we clickety-clacked on quiet rails
from Dublin to Galway, and then from Galway to Gort,
rain water stippling the glass and sliding sideways
against the green-hilled backdrop.
We followed the footsteps of Yeats’ ghost
to a meditation garden,
sat on the stone benches and wondered
who had been here before,
what prayers had been gifted to the silence,
to the ancient stone steeples,
their Celtic crosses peering like peeping Tom’s
over the tops of leafy trees.
Later, we stood in the confines of a castle
older than the first thoughts
of a United States of America.
I climbed the spiral stairs of polished stone
and wished for more simplicity.
Then, the Cliffs of Moher
made me feel small in their timeless erosion,
their shores of slick, black stones,
their fields of yellow and purple flowers,
the wind spraying sea foam against those sheer faces
and rifling my hair like an absent father
while the gulls circled and cried
about their lives of meaningless beauty.
Skellig Michael juts from the sea like two broken teeth
shrouded in white-gray mist and the irregular shadows
of broken fault lines drawing maps to stars
in other unseen dimensions.
Here, monks carved their stairways
from the limestone of the hillside
into a winding labyrinth of persistence,
to a summit shortening the distance
between their prayers and the ears
those prayers were exalted toward.
Hordes of gulls and puffins paint these
jagged crags into abstract masterpieces
of white guano and stray loose feathers
against deep grays and blacks
of barren landscape
interrupted only with occasional outgrowths
of lush green moss, proof of life’s
unwillingness to admit defeat
even in these places
the gods have gone to hide.
Flat slate slabs stacked into walls
along every road,
between every plot of pasture land,
segregating the hills and valleys
into haphazard squares,
these walls revealing their age
in their differing levels of foliage and mosses
grown through the mortar lines
and covering their surfaces
in full-bodied botanical burgeonings.
This land makes me time traveler,
wandering in somnambulant wonder
through fields largely untouched
by human indifference.
How could I think of killing myself here?
Standing at the precipice of nothing
between myself and a horizon
of blue sky
mottled only by the specks of birds?
The luscious greenery of rolling knolls
populated with sparse smatterings
of brown and black cattle
and the meandering shadows
of cumulus clouds,
clouds stacked so high they lumber
between the Earth and the sun
like giant ephemeral mammoths.
And yet, depression threatens
to turn my head into a bowling ball.
Even as I stand in line
to kiss the Blarney Stone,
climbing a path slicked by countless soles
that have come before me,
all desiring to hang backward over a ledge
and press their moistened lips
to a piece of rock
smooth as a river of wishes.
Suicidal thoughts in these, my happiest of days,
remind me that I am unwell,
that even Chris Cornell couldn’t live
with the adoration of strangers.
Why should I struggle against
this same universe?
A universe that on the same day
casts a ray of vibrant light
onto the senseless darkness
of the Black Valley,
and then kills twenty-two people
for daring to love music.
This world doesn’t deserve to end me.
Anywhere you go, the oldest buildings
will be cathedrals and churches.
Sanctuaries built like fortresses
to keep out the rest of the cosmos.
I watch pigeons fight over bread crumbs
at the train station. One of them is missing a leg.
It hobbles onward, feeding off the refuse
dropping from strangers’ mouths and hands.
To these pigeons, our existence is irrelevant
except to provide temporary respite from hunger.
So much of life is inconsequential,
a repetition of mundane decisions
and actions attached to bodily function:
where to eat, what to eat,
shitting, pissing, sleeping,
all this for a substantial percentage
of the limited hours we call our lives,
it begins to seem pointless,
so monotonous, so monochromatic,
a chain reaction of purposelessness
that puts religion in a realm of necessity
for minds incapable of acknowledging
this is reality,
the universe is indifferent,
there are fractions of seconds separating
asteroidal trajectories from collision
and panoramic photo opportunity.
Past the mountains of the Burren,
we found a Holy Well,
a well blessed once a year
for centuries and said to cure sadness,
but the water was unfit to drink,
rank with stagnant stink
among slimy stones rife with dancing bugs.
Someone left a single white Lego block
inside the shrine,
another a twisted green bottle cap,
and a few coins, rusted with ordinary chemistry.
This was only a short distance
from a magnificent cove
where waves had carved the slate
into fractured, asymmetrical rows,
making the beach into a mouth,
the ocean becoming its frothy tongue,
an insane blue tide of violent kisses
beckoning all manner of lovers
like the woman we watched undress
and walk into the water,
fearless and free,
despite the posted signs warning
of strong currents
declaring swimming an illegal activity.
How could I not fall in love?
With these miles and miles
of lightless preservation,
homes only to sheep and goats,
their coats painted either blue or red
to mark their sex,
where fog rolls in from the coast
to wreath the mountains
like a shawl for the shoulders
of craggy warlords
made from the coattails of ghosts
and countless saints now shackled to the moon,
doomed to wander the outskirts of this island
like wayward protectors
just waiting to be forgotten.