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DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS 47 DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS EAMONN WALL THE WESTWARD JOURNEY Setting out on the westward journey with eight suitcases and two cats. On this last night we sleep at the La Guardia Marriott to swim in the pool, and begin the busy work of forgetting Mr. Pedro’s large hands stuck in the till as his fingers float among the pennies. “You are leaving New York to live in America,” he says. “I would be afraid of that, and the little ones will lose their Spanish.” At the end of the street each Sunday morning bright speedboats race for the early shadows under the George Washington Bridge. I have stored away your cries of being born: from these ugly streets, red paint on the old benches in Payson Playground, to the sweet brown eyes of an immigrant from Galicia fumbling and cursing quietly about for our change. My own childhood unimaginable without the Slaney humming “Son, you breathe” as I read the clock each morning above Louis Kerr’s shop. Impossible that there was another life. Tonight, my children are singing in the water at the prospect of a plane ride to another life, but someone must remember, there must be someone to write this down. DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS 48 MAGIC BARREL MAN A daughter carrying books emerges from the subway into the smoky evening. Blue lights over the liquor store, men and cigarettes. A bouncing ball, Jackie Robinson. The first five years in the New World. Brooklyn, New York. Two men sit in an apartment, the younger teaching his elder words to give substance to the death of the family, Manhattan humming beyond the window panes. The magic barrel man is my father, I’ll have you know. Cobblers, rabbis, and matchmakers waiting and weeping while the bride is stripped bare. To taste heat in my mouth and feel less pain. It is not possible to be unhappy in America. In Inwood, an old tailor has a heart attack on the sidewalk while a broad-shouldered youth runs off with the cash from his shop. And I am across the street watching the fracas like a man reading a book, or a foreigner watching a movie depicting life in America. How your stories, Bernard Malamud, have made the city less confusing, menorahs in windows and lights on trees reduced finally to a normal size as it was years ago when at the age of seven I was seen walking across Enniscorthy wearing my Éamon de Valéra glasses for the first time. I listen to the old tailor while my kids watch him draw licorice from the money drawer, and when they settle in to hear him make the Singer hum, I imagine him and me huddled in the corner of the shop seeking each other’s warmth—father & son, teacher & student. Immigrants sitting in luminous silence: wealthy & wise & weeping. DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS 49 But I hear the tailor’s children have come and led him to the suburbs, just as he had led his brothers & sisters out of Germany, raising them as father & mother in America. Soon the travel agency offering package tours to the Sandals resort in Jamaica will absorb his shop, and there won’t be a thing remaining but words on a page. I write these words & kiss your foreheads, Fathers. ß DRIVING TO KEARNEY, NEBRASKA We were slumped under the nicotined photos of old men in Kehoe’s of St. Anne St. A morning in a hotel room undressing again hearing someone push a brush across a floor, a car backfire, and a faint presence of the tide. Rostrevor, Co. Down. Out today’s window machinery rusts at the edge of a field: summer brought the best out of us traveling downhill from Equamville to clanking boats in Honfleur harbor. I remember you looking impatiently for the sun describing your father’s world to me. MiltownMalbay , County Clare. It is difficult DÁNTA ÚRA: NEW POEMS 50 to keep love going, a bare landscape spins on sixteen wheels 3,000 miles from the sea, and the past is as bright as wounds opened by Hank Williams’s songs...


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