Red Deer on the Irish Pound

by Stephen de Búrca

It was a bockety auld car –
brick-red, the smell of diesel traipsed
after Dad’s Jetta, consuming the air

around it. En route to the low-stakes
hurling match (Galway versus Roscommon)
in Dr Hyde Park, rain falling in spates,

he pointed out the remodelled prison
in Castlerea. The fan-belt skirled
as we slowed down. Myself and Lorcan

were beltless in the back with the hurls,
both flummoxed by the stop. Fadó, fadó,
it was a mental hospital;

the River Suck a mere stone’s throw
away, it served as a sanitorium
in the late forties, the Free State in the throes

of more TB. The poor man’s syndrome
he said, shifting back up till he found
third gear, the engine spluttering sans shame.

The rain had stopped as we joined the crowds
and filed in the park’s gates. Fan, fan,
before ye go – he gave us a pound 

with the red deer of relieved brawn
that felt so foreign. My BCG scars
were raw back then; now they are wan.

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.