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.