Austin Clarke’s Dublin
for Maurice Harmon, on his eightieth birthday
Maybe it was June when he walked
among the poor and poor-in-spirit,
whose lives would end on sickbeds
or in the Mansion of Forgetfulness,
the Lord of Mercy looking down on them.
It happened in the style of cinema verite:
Downriver to the bridge before the bay
the Liffey barges brought black porter.
That was when the poet with the wide brim over
his eyes passed this way through the city he loved.
Wearing the aura of a Celtic monk,
his coat, a solid garment, buttoned up,
his walk of contemplation took him
to places we still behold: Merchant’s Arch,
old St Weburgh’s where pigeons on the ledges
listen to Protestant bells: the call to morning
service and later, the call to vespers.
Maybe it was June when he saw the ship of kegs,
met the scholars and slow-learners,
heard church bells on Manor Street
and chatter from the dim saloons
packed with men in donkey jackets
and with five o’clock shadows,
whose backs were bent from work they did
in Engine Alley and Blackpitts.