In Dublin I lost track of my nation
But not my father.
He was standing on O’Connell street
As I boarded a bus
My father’s brown face
Voice of this city
Left in the rear view
Of History—the bars
Of Behan and the alleyways
Of northside boys
With their exuberant slang.
M father's temperament sweet and bitter
As Irish history, hard as Irish bread;
The Estate mothers gathered
At the corner to share
Gossip, to complain and curse so loud
With fooking this, and fooking that
Even the clouds floating over the Gaol
Muffled their ears.
In Dublin I lost track
Of my nation but not my father,
Walking along the river Liffey. The urn
Inside spilled its dust. My mother a levee
Against the sea of grief. The Irish sea
An unnamable yearning to belong.
As we strolled past black suited bankers
And buskers, kids nodding
On junk in doorways. The streets
Torn apart like dictionaries
As foreign construction workers
Worked on tram tracks,
Shared cigarettes, leaned on shovels
Speaking loud Spanish
& Polish, outside a bakery
Of Italian loaves. My American mother,
A levee against the Irish sea.
And for me too the difference
Between longing and belonging
Is one of keening,
Calling us home.
But what is home,
Or even a nation mean?
Without a parade
To history as the rain
The small rain, along the quay
That wetted my father’s hair.
As my mother, head scarfed
Against the Irish wind,
Leaned her shoulder into him.
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