Dear Brendan

by Patricia McCarthy


Dear Brendan, I can still hear
your lilting voice on the telephone
that last time when your old head,
you said, was not that good any more.

I think I detected a stutter of fear
as away, it seemed, you were flown
with the fairies to a kind of homestead
where nothing could ever again be sure

in Listowel. Yet where your native tongue,
whose fadas and buailtes had merged
with your adopted English, the polyphony

was the pride of all the bells ever rung.
And the Atlantic and Irish seas surged
from the bedrock of epiphany.


Dear Brendan, put a sheaf
of your own poems in your hand
and you’d recite eloquently by heart
their many voices, yourself their home.

Now you dump the fairies with relief –
back in your old College stomping ground,
Professor of every conceivable art,
your Darkest Fathers unearthed from loam.

Your corkscrew curls dance with you
past Bewleys, down Grafton Street
to the tune of ‘On Raglan Road’
that you sang to me once. I knew
Death, for you, could never be a defeat,
dear Brendan, with all that life you showed

in your after-life veins, the wind your scribe
for new poems on sheets of tabled tides.


Dear Brendan,
no more letters from you,
mentoring, praising
in that distinctive handwriting –
saved in bundles now,
their black Quink ink faded
down the decades
to the rust of dried blood.
No more Butlers chocolates
from Dublin, more recent
with shorter inscriptions
in the same Parker fountain pen.
The sea is your inkwell now,
filling itself with blue-black,
turquoise inks for you to dip into
when the wind is on retreat.
Foghorns announce your return
in a cloak of bird-feathers dropped
by the murmurations you described.
Know, Brendan, I will collect
your epistles from the water
and send them back
to where, divilishly courteous,
you forever resound.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author. Patricia McCarthy, winner of The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2013, is the editor of the national/international poetry journal, Agenda.