John McKeown

Long-Term Relationships
They break you down
then sweep you into the corner.
Then they dominate the ring
and dare you to come out
fists flailing.
If you do they forgive you
through the tears
and give you one last chance.
You take it with bad grace
grudgingly catching the light
that glints from their good side
through your half bruise-closed eyes.
Though really, everything is dark.

The Spirit of Dublin

A local drunk,
a twitchy, aged,
little deflated old ball,
muttering to himself.
But he drank that Guinness
so reverential,
like he was kissing
some ancient beloved.
For those seconds
he was fluid, inspiring as music.
Then half-way down
the landlord comes,
tone-deaf to all the shades
of the heart,
takes his pint,
gives him his coins back,
and throws him out

An Irish Funeral

Look at all the people
you didn’t know who cared,
hanging round the churchyard
for you to slide into the hearse.

Noisy shiftless bastards! – What?
they only want the day off work?
Death’s made you so cynical –
but you forgot the whiskey at the wake.

Seriously, isn’t it grand this show
of solidarity with your family’s loss?...
Yes, it is hard to credit so many grinning
who happen to give a toss.

John McKeown © 2008