Is not how most people would describe you.
But I think you are.
I think of you often.
St Stephen’s Green,
Where the London Planes stand tall and ancient,
Mulling over the history they have witnessed,
How once revolutionaries thundered below their leafy crowns.
Glowing in the dying light of day,
Like a cat’s eye.
The hills beyond.
Dublin after dark.
Whiskey and ginger ale.
Fog from the river
And music seeping out onto the streets.
Kennedy’s on Westland Row,
Where us students went on a Wednesday night,
After one of our first lectures of the year,
Wide eyed and curious about one another.
Hours later we closed the bar.
McGuinness fast food on Camden Street with stools chained to the floor.
The Bernard Shaw,
With its pizza bus
And smoke-filled backyard.
The steps at the back where strangers always came to talk.
Now no more.
That late night after the Christmas party,
At a flat.
Taking turns to walk two and two
Up the steep ladder
To the roof.
Gazing out at the triangular rooftops
And clouds lit with an orange glow.
Nightwalking through the city when sleep didn’t happen.
Stumbling across Molly Malone at four in the morning,
Cockles and mussels,
Alive, alive oh.
Her bosom shining like a polished apple
From years and years of passers-by touching her breast.
The Juliet of Dublin.
That early morning someone had placed a traffic cone on her head,
Bright and orange.
Another nightwalker passed by and said to me
Suits her, doesn’t it?
When I sat,
Exhausted at a busstop at the top of Grafton Street
As the birds began to sing again.
A homeless man asking me if I was alright,
I nodded and felt the tears sting in my eyes.
The beach at Sandymount.
The ripples in the grey, muddy sand,
Stretching like lifelines on the back of a hand.
The crows and raspberry brambles
On the path to the lighthouse.
The stench from the recycling plant.
The smell of rot as the tide pulled back,
The sense of infinity as the sea disappeared,
Revealing the endless sandbank.
Walking out over the flat, exposed sand at night,
Away from the street lights,
Towards the gaping empty of the Irish Sea.
A sense that I could walk into infinity.
The nightly walks along the promenade,
People parked in cars,
Hands digging into greasy bags of popcorn,
Steam fogging the windows.
The moon rising out East,
Like a golden finger.
Those other earlier night walks
Along the Liffey,
When the wind made ripples in the grimy water
As it flowed under the low bridges,
Lit from beneath with patriotic colours.
The Forty Foot at Sandycove,
Which I visited with two friends.
We took the train out to Dun Laoghaire,
Walked down the promenade,
Eating 99 Flakes.
At the Forty Foot drop we watched the waves crashing in.
People jumping off the rocks,
Screaming with fear and joy as they hit the water.
I promised myself I would come back later in the summer
To swim there.
I never did.
The Luas station at Ranelagh,
The heron’s nest visible from the bridge.
Below it, the café where the cute barista worked,
Who I never dared ask out.
The bookseller in the second-hand store off O’Connell Street who
Each time I visited
Told me the same story
Of his cycling holiday in Norway,
Drawing me a map of the fiords he had visited
On a paper napkin.
The Botanical Gardens with the Rapunzel tower
And the hot, steamy greenhouses.
The Gravedigger’s where I went on a bad date
And drank good Guinness,
That settled for four minutes at the bar
Before we were allowed to drink it.
Mary Immaculate Refuge of Sinners Church on Rathmines Road,
The beauty of the green dome,
Round and motherly like a breast,
The pillars glowing milky in the pink, fading light,
Making me want to take refuge inside,
Filling me with a religious longing.
I never entered the building.
Walking out of my writing den at Oscar Wilde’s,
Exhausted but happy from writing for hours.
Through campus in the blue light,
The smell of wet grass and damp air.
Past the rugby pitch,
A right by the old museum building,
Past the stump of the Oregon Maple on Library Square,
Elation running like electricity through me.
The tiny doughnut stand on O’Connell Street,
The comforting smell of hot dough, sugar and cinnamon
Wafting onto the busy road.
A warm paper bag clutched in my hand,
Biting into the soft texture,
Sugar coating my lips as I crossed the Luas lines
And walked West.
Countess Markievicz solidified on Townsend Street.
Sweaty Dubliners marching behind her
On the treadmills in the fitness centre.
St Ann’s Church on Dawson Street,
With its red door,
Like a warm, beating heart set in a stone cold body.
Where Bram Stoker married his love.
Where the Spanish tourists approached me,
Where are the deer?
We want to feed them.
The abandoned, tumble-down farmhouse,
The beech trees on the hills.
You come back to haunt me.
The memory of your streets,
And who I was when I belonged to you.
Becoming someone I wanted to be.