Thursday Nov 30

HealyDermot Dermot Healy was born in Westmeath in 1947 and is an accomplished novelist, short story writer, playwright and autobiographer. His short stories are collected as Banished Misfortune (London, Allison & Busby, 1984). His novels are Fighting with Shadows (London, Allison & Busby 1984); A Goat’s Song (London, Collins Harvill, 1994); Sudden Times (London, The Harvill Press, 1999); and Long Time No See (London, Faber, 2011).  His autobiography is The Bend for Home (Harvill, 1996).  Healy’s  poetry includes Neighbours’ Lights (1992); The Ballyconnel Colours (Loughcrew, The Gallery Press, 1995); What the Hammer (The Gallery Press, 1998); The Reed Bed (The Gallery Press, 2001); and A Fool’s Errand (The Gallery Press, 2010).  His awards include the Hennessy Award (1974 and 1976); the Tom Gallon Award (1983); the Encore Award (1995); and the AWB Vincent American Ireland Fund Literary Award, 2002.  A member of Aosdána, he lives in County Sligo.

Back Pain of the Irish

That fellow Elvis could sing.
Hallo Mister Foley, said Mister Foster,
Your hump has got worse,
But don’t worry your good lucks have improved
Why has the Paddy a bad back? I’ll tell you.
I was about my business doing nothing
When I met a German above at Mc Guires Bridge,
And we fell to talking, like.
I didn’t ask him about the war,
And he didn’t mention the cost of things.
It seems that—in another life—he was a man who set bones.
And he put it to me like this:
The Irishman does not work as hard as he used to.
No, I said, watching him carefully.
But for years he did, he said. We still do a little, I said.
Oh yes, but not enough.
For you see the Irish spine was built to carry great loads,
And that’s the trouble. Now it carries little or nothing like it used to,
So you see, the Irish have lost the use of part of their spine.
A few discs are lying idle,
Hence the reason the Irish have the worse bad backs in Europe.
And he stepped off, smart as a reed,
Into the fields of buttercups
Leaving me thinking—
Someone else has been carrying our load
Down the years. And the lighter the load we carried
The heavier the weight grew.
If I was carrying
What I used to, I’d be fit as a fiddle,
And that’s a fact, morning glory—
The richer you become, the worse
The pain in your back will get.

Out there

And in a neighbour’s window
A tall bowl of tall flowers
Stands like a woman,
With her hands
Squeezed round her hips,
Shoulders aslant
And head tilted forward
As she studies what’s happening
Out there today
The Birds I know

In the ditch
The grasses collect in families
While the thin conductor, fast asleep,
Waves, ready to begin
Again in a light wind
As the sheep
Cross the field
In a wandering line,
While the birds I know
Grow less
As their numbers
Multiply round
A bare tree trunk
With the apron strings of ivy
Tied at the waist
And feet.

As the words go

As the words go
The plot thickens
I can see myself as a lad
Reading Charlie Dickens
But cannot remember what happened
Last night,
And in the morning when I look in the mirror
I get a fright
Wondering is that me out there
Till slowly I return from above
But as the words go
They even abandon love