Eugene O’Hare

Fan Letter to Chet Baker

when you, Mister Baker, when you

blow trumpet, O the air within ten yards 

of my nose goes sweet as Wexford strawberries. 

during the civil war of my rowdy family 

stuck in the cramped Catholic home of our youth, 

sweet smells as these- roses & bush fruits-

were signs of visitation by a monk or nun 

who’d suffered all the way to saintliness. 

and when you, Chet Baker, sing, 

O when you sing My Funny Valentine

or when you sing sing sing 

The Thrill is Gone, i pull into a sideroad 

and rest my head against the wheel.

away from all the other cars i feel 

your breath on my neck, & down 

my shoulders, & over my fingers 

resting on the handbrake.

soon i will tell Julia, my new girlfriend,

that you were the first man i ever loved.

The Iconography of the Irish Mother

Ancient Queen Maeve of Connaught

is spraying Guerlain from a tester bottle

on her arms, hair & neck here in City Airport.

barefoot, in off-white slip, and a hoodie

lifted from the GAA rail of the tourist shop,

Maeve chews steady through caramels

& butterscotch fudge from a Butler’s souvenir

hamper which she opened with her teeth.

to Maeve, airport temperature is exotic.

she discarded her gown & cape 

in the coughsweet & Lemsip section of Boots;

her raiment’s heaped in the aisle

like a pile of old stage curtains-

dusty with the floors of ringforts, hems 

& trails torn up, frayed; snagged while chasing 

the brown bull all the way to the foot of a scarp. 

when a handsome cosmetics lady asks

if she needs some help choosing a perfume,

Maeve measures her with strips of seaweed

the colour of negatives from those disposable 

cameras nobody uses anymore. Maeve is in awe

of the perfume lady’s tallness, her painted face

& the whiteness of her teeth.

later, to an assembly at a phone-charging dock,

Ancient Queen Maeve of Connaught riffs 

on the iconography of the Irish mother.

she who carries stones in a flap under

her heart, stones saved from belligerent 

tides, stones thrown out of skies 

in the guise of hail, stones boiled in search 

of cures for sick elders, & those precious stones 

rubbed into worry beads for the kids travelling home. 


[for Lucy & James]

and if the sun does not set, having not risen,

and if the water does not flow, having frozen,

and if the song of the earth does not sing

having lost its voice in the final storm,

what will i turn to you and say?

i will cut an apple in two and we will speak

of trees; those long years of fruit & the winters

they survived to surprise & feed us

again & again & again.

with the last bite swallowed

i will tell you that we lived in love.

like leaves we appeared on the arms

of time, grew old and fell; landing soft

on our backs. we were at the centre

of everything. what luck, eh? what chance.

to have breathed. to have been.

Eugene O’Hare was born in County Down. He was shorlisted for the 2021 poetry prize at Belfast Book Festival. Recent poems have featured (or forthcoming) in Cyphers, Dedalus Press, The Irish News, Invisible City, Atrium and more. His plays are published by Methuen.