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  • Filíocht Nua:New Poetry
  • Billy Ramsell


This is the most perfect fusion, surely,of man and machine; Pat McGlinchey in March 52.The tape yields, welcoming into its cellulosethe scratched reel of an émigré in Williamsburgand delivering it to my ear-buds safelythrough what analogue and cloned generations?Fiddle insistency. The creak of horsehair makes a frayed sublime.Spools whirr in an out-of-hours immigrant bar.

For each jig twists to meet itselflike a corkscrew shaped hilland every slow air is the sea

The man whose tune becomes a standardtakes leave of it, in awed disappointmentmust watch it depart, like a teary child tracinga kite that's been wind-caught, pilfered,that's just a cerise and hand-made diamond vanishing,trailing its brilliance above the winter roofs,cherished, remarked on, by craned ignorant necksthat know nothing of its birth or begetter.

For each jig twists to meet itselflike a corkscrew shaped hilland every slow air is the sea

Look at him sidelong at 60, in his crisp maroon uniform,as he discreetly opens the rear doors of sedanson a Manhattan dawn of awnings, of gratuitiesso delicately palmed (Good Morning Mrs Wilkinson, [End Page 50] Afternoon Mr Stein, Good Evening Mr Finch),he who'd spun reels to a peasant, insurmountable race,whose hornpipes had charmed the very spindrift,had made it hover above the shingle at Killary.

For each jig twists to meet itselflike a corkscrew shaped hilland every slow air is the sea

You may christen a raucous and runaway thing,dub it 'The Frisco', 'Indreabhán' or 'Comferford's Ditch'but raw tunes care no more for such appellationsthan islands for the names mariners give,for 'Fola', or 'Christmas' or 'Van Diemen's Land'.Aloof creatures, they are; self-delighted, more heedless of titlethan the comet's world-perturbing fist of ice and ammoniaor the far and lightless estates of the moon.

For each jig twists to meet itselflike a corkscrew shaped hilland every slow air is the sea

His huge fingers rollick. They frisk. The machine listensit renders its own hissed accompaniment (Good Morning Patrick,Why Thank You Paddy, Good Evening Pat). Digital amber:to my iPod and latte across six decades of resignationand static comes, this rough trinket plucked from forgetting.As a child loves the flyaway kite. As the body loves the soulin the seconds after dying. The tape's salving magnetism.The reels go round and round. You have named nothing. [End Page 51]

Memory House

I outsourced all my memories to machines.Addresses, specifics, had long been the stuff of paper and pen.

Numbers went then: the digits of colleagues and loves to a sim-card,long division then arithmetic to the buttons of a calculator.

All was subtraction. I delegated sat-navs to remember my way for me,handsets to carry birthdays and tasks, deadlines, anniversaries.

Next trivia. Dates and places evaporated, became droplets in the Cloud,as I downloaded app after app for remembering, for forgetting.

I left the matching of names and faces to the iKnow (Make awkward momentsat parties a thing of the past) swapped pins for a fingerprint,

transplanted recollection wholesale to a battery of servers,every disc abrim with biographies, humming with summers and Christmases.

To liberate capacity, of course. Brain space. Cortical RAM.But mainly just to do without what memories bring:

the mockery, their guilt, the crowded dreams. And now it's gone.And now, thank Christ, I can remember nothing except for this;

this stay against night, this precaution for sleeplessness I couldn't let go of:Aisling, I'm beside you in the high-ceilinged music room.

I feel welcome here in your mother's house, I feel a welcome guestas I watch your apt hands. Disdainful, aloof to themselves, to the keys,

they send a mist of arpeggios through the cool and shaft-lit hallwayto the lowest terrace of the garden, to the heat-lapped lawn

where Saoirse pivots and glides, rehearsing at the steps to the riverbed.The apple trees acclaim...


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