An Irishman Foresees a Day in NYC

by Stephen de Búrca

after Paul Muldoon

Awesome, this May day and the tumult in the crowds
here at Grand Central Station.
Upon alighting, I’m happy to sit and avoid the cheerless clouds
and watch the people being rationed
into queues and groups like huge, splintering
families. The prelude to the station’s tannoy
is not unlike a cuckoo ringing in spring
in Carna where my mother (who, hoy-hoy,

shares Christian names with the woman
who introduced GH Lees to Dubbleya-Bee)
lived in sin with a son in her womb,
the first of two by a man known affectionately
as T to avoid
the anglicised pronunciation of Tomás.
I get up to leave (the tannoy
giving my head a terrific ache) and outside the awesome

crowds are still tumultuous.
Blueshirts brownshirts turn-the-beat-around-shirts
there’s no stopping the nullius
filius-ness of being in a place you’ve never before parsed.
Her father’s parents (Michael and fair May-
god-be-with-you) were married here and had three of twelve
before returning (and-also-with-you) to Castledaly
but not before aul’ Michael served

as a WWI medical orderly here in the US of A.
The pension and citizenship was enough to set up shop and farm
in Castledaly’s Isle-a-Willa
half a mile down the road from
the village church,
as the owl flies, where Michael’s brother (né Peter)
was accused with another man of ambushing a dúchrónach.
It was not the first time US Passports (né papers)

were put to legal use. I hear
Trump Tower isn’t far, but for the craic,
part of me wants to Kiltartan-criss-and-Tullycross the East River
to Roosevelt Island Racquet
Club (doubtful there’d be mini-golf), though I’m craving a lonely impulse
of shellfish; I may fare well with one, not even hurl
or be repulsed
or even whiff at an oyster.

According to Google Maps, there’s Dock’s Oyster Bar
and Crave Fishbar and Grand Central
Oyster Bar (beneath me) and Oceana, all nearby,
but I am in a state of forgetful-
ness, amnestia even. T’s mother, Pearl (née Esther) Cooke,
had never been to the States
I don’t think, before her mini-strokes,
before she bought the house in Naas with sockets

so many she took pride in them,
after she married Tom (a tailor)
when she was sixteen or seventeen in Roscommon
when he was ten years her elder,
a man so good with his hands
it left him legless – a dubble-amputee
from diabetes (né fond-
of-the-drink-ism). I pass a Double Tree

Hilton, but he cut suits on Saville Row
not far from Hyde Park (Mayfair, not Roscommon) where I worked
in a café and learned to make cappuccinos
and lattes with my hands while I puckered,
tremendously hungover, hearing ‘NYC Beat’ for the first time. I don’t know the truth-
nor-full-consequence of Tom’s handiwork and homegrown
wood, but he built a caravan from scratch
which they took to Enniscrone

this side of Drumcliff and north of Mayo-god-help-us. T, only a gasúr
in those early days, had an awful
knack for wasting breath through unanswered
wails and howls and tantrums to much díomá,
howling so much it’d give life to the dead
only for it to be taken away. And now, there’s Saint Thomas’
Church across from St Pat’s and there are some squareheaded
blueshirted police officers

with thumbs under toolbelts
and shiny aviators taking nothing in,
not even a scratch. Before she could go for seconds, nothing could be left
on my mother’s-mother’s (Mary-wife-of-G) plate. The radio called in
the updates as her father, Trev, marked the map of Europe
on their dining room wall, upon which he pegged
it up to track the Axis’ progress, whistling a chirrup.
A Blueshirt, no doubt, which cost him an arm and a leg

in terms of the Drumcolliher dispensary
he felt may have been, to be frank,
unfairly taken from him. He felt it necessary
to name Mary’s youngest sister Franco
(not Frank O’, god help us)
and the two of them disappeared piecemeal
into the woodwork (nullius
pavet occursum
) at the end of each meal.

Trev’s own brother, Arthur,
over Picardy’s poppy fields, in an RAF Fairey IIIC,
was shot down during November’s
amnesty at the age of nineteen or twenty,
long after Operation Michael and long
before Mary became a theatre nurse in St Vincent’s
and before she met Michael’s and May’s youngest
Gerry of Castledaly, of St Thomas’ GAA club, the man who in pretence

feigned a nosebleed (among other things, like his ability
to golf, to tennis, to croquet;
though in the end betrayed by a hurler’s grip on the mallet,
club, and racket,
much to the disdain of haughty Trev)
for her attention, in a lowly impulse, in Dublin’s Metropole Dance Hall
while he trained to divvy
up the law at Blackhall

the other side of the Anna Liffey
where life loves an out-of-reach horizon,
like the Mexican horizon that was shifty
and became American
after the San Patricios fared quite unquietly unwell
in Churubusco, and Mexico’s north
became New. The famine bells
still knelled as the States of Aye-Aye girthed

the New M., and Mexicans (ad hoc)
were (legally) made white so they could set and cast
a vote legally. And yes, the cuckoo
has been the state’s
statutory bird, the Greater Roadrunner
running out of road in Gila Park
where owls hoot-hoot and cars are eating road (as my father
would say, ar dheis dé…) as if to burke

the desire to leave Truth or Consequences NM hurriedly.
Awe-stroked now I am by the May sun
(…go raibh a anam dílis) on a day fit fairly
for pearling as I move along
west, circumventing Rockefeller Center
and past the Mayfair Hotel, and in a moment of amnesia
I had forgotten ‘Love’s Labour’s
Lost’ was in my satchel. So I sit for a slice of pizza

and in a stroke of good luck (and god bless)
I overcame my geyser-like whooping cough
when I was in nappies,
when my mother herself
was studying at Blackhall and my father
(T; god rest him) felt he was in terra nullius
with my brother and me. But he soldiered
on through it when spondulicks were scarce.

He would soon-after marry and make her an island of a widow from a stroke he had in a hospital
(Merlin Park – not né-d after King Arthur’s legend),
a place designed to cope with an outbreak of Tubercul-
osis (or not to be) where Gerry, his son, and other daughter reckoned
with TB, where two of the three
continued on (and continue to continue) with life
and one of those two briefly
dabbled in a twelve-stepper while his wife

took to the Book. I’m self-conscious
of my wallet now, of a twelve-stepper-
chip that impresses
a ring much too like a latex Durex rubber
so I pay with the fiver in one of my satchel’s many pockets
on this, the fairest of May days, for there is not a cloud
for there to be any tumult to keep balance
within, much to the delighting lonely impulse of these crowds.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. Stephen de Búrca is a Poetry PhD candidate at the Heaney Centre in Belfast and earned an MFA from the University of Florida. From Galway, Stephen was runner-up in the Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing 2022. His work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Southword, Crannóg, Abridged, and elsewhere.