Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

The Leaving: a poem

This old familiar story of heading back to/The mainland, to so-called ambition and economics./History repeating history, poet rendering poet, a country/That cannot hold its citizens within its grasp.

Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 01:00



On board the 14:30 sailing from Dublin to Hollyhead
And reading Mac Niece’s ‘Valediction’ with a tint of
Irony, and a glimmer of sentimentality, as the Baily
Lighthouse shoots back from cinematic view,
Wild blazing yellow gorse and jagged cliff,
To small sinewy dot: Ireland, slightly out of reach.

This old familiar story of heading back to
The mainland, to so-called ambition and economics.
History repeating history, poet rendering poet, a country
That cannot hold its citizens within its grasp.
Beware of national pride, talk of mother’s sacrifice,
Or diminishing dominions: this border that
Pulls us together, does it not also break us apart?
A nation where public discourse was saliently silent
Until the fat lady firmly screamed with her three
Capital letters, sovereignty vanishing
With a mere whisper: trench coat and suitcase in
Hand on a damp November evening.
We come unprepared, un-trusted with our
Lack of bureaucratic skills to keep a working nation
Prosperous. From Famine Road to Damascus, back through
Capitol Hill, we shamefully offered our wares, like a Monto
Whore in the dead of night. More Boston than Berlin, progressively
Richer, demise of democracy, and a billion wasted on pen pushers
Who lounge in air-conditioned offices,
While the wisest chiefs in the land die pitifully on
Ramshackle trolleys. A rising tide lifts all boats, just as
Low corporation tax builds swimming pools in southern California,
Despite its geographical wilderness from GDP figures,
For historical references please see Robert Kennedy’s famous speech on this.

Repeating the tired clichés …
Rebuilding a Republic, a social conscience, rising interest rates,
One Fianna replacing the other, all bound to the creed of middle
Class caution and fear of a working class we’ve never had.
Liable replacing Bible, apathy replacing audacity,
My generation’s vice: to sit at home and dream the world
In satirical Facebook comments and smiley faces, while
American bond-sellers drink up profitable debt: the gleam of
Corporate windows protecting their profits they cannot prophesize
For legal and PR reasons. Meanwhile in smoke-free pubs the discourse
Continues. Solving the world’s problems over
Pints of placid porter “hold that point
There, one second I’ve to go for a piss.”

“I’ve a cousin out in Brockley, or is it Blackheath? I can’t remember.
Came there in the late 70s, Charring Cross Road I know it well, with
Its lure of tourists and tidy bookshops, I did six months in 72, six years
In the 80s, I’ve a sister out in Barnes, sure you know Richmond Park, it’s
Not too far.”

The Easter break, the commuters come back in their droves, Dublin a
Satellite hub, generations scatter, like swans at Coole Park.
Mystified, demythologised,
Ireland, a moving bedrock, her people a travelling tribe.
The last rays of evening sunlight are lowering over
Welsh Moors, in a train station I
Cannot pronounce. “Please change at Chester,
This train will arrive in Euston at
21:42, we apologise for late arrival.”

JP O’ Malley is a freelance journalist based in London. His work has appeared in publications including The Spectator, The Economist, The Daily Beast, New African, The American Interest, The Times of Israel, The Sunday Independent and The Irish Examiner. Follow him on twitter @johnpaulomallez or visit his blog