Monthly Archives: December 2014

‘He wanted to stay in that cafe forever’

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If Christmas means anything it means home – a place or a sense of home.

The lucky ones will find themselves there today, at home, among friends, family or even alone.

I woke this chilly Christmas morning in one place I can call home, Wexford, the town where I was born. Lucky, I rose with a sense of peace, my wife alongside me, other family members stirring.

The feeling of home struck me so strongly that I was brought to another place, taken from the streets of Wexford to a snow-struck hill town in North Carolina.

A young man sat in a cafe there, in a poem by Charles Bukowski. There’s no mention of Christmas, or home, but the verse is suffused with peace, a feeling of contentment and acceptance, the Christmas spirit.

“…the meal was
particularly
good
and the
coffee.
the waitress was
unlike the women
he had
known.
she was unaffected,
there was a natural
humor which came
from her.
the fry cook said
crazy things.
the dishwasher,
in back,
laughed, a good
clean
pleasant
laugh.
the young man watched
the snow through the
windows.
he wanted to stay
in that cafe
forever.
the curious feeling
swam through him
that everything
was
beautiful
there,
that it would always
stay beautiful
there.”*

—–
*Charles Bukowski, “Nirvana”.

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Into the dark that was everything and nothing

Dublin shoreline. Pic: Peter Gerken

Dublin shoreline.
Pic: Peter Gerken

The dark hung above the marshland that ran from the road to the sea.

It was everything and it was nothing. It ran above the wetlands and over the dunes and on out into the water.

It moved in winter storms, or hung silent in the fog. The dawn banished it, but only slowly.

_____

In the morning he would wake, rising into the winter blackness.

Because the routine was the man, he believed, he would put on his clothes in the same order each time, trying not to wake her.

He had run his route so often he didn’t question why he did it anymore, or if he should change it, or stop doing it.

He would run when he felt good, rested, and when he was tired or sick. Injury would stop him but he would always, eventually, run through that too.

He knew when he didn’t do this, or if didn’t do it often enough, he felt empty, like he hadn’t engaged with what the morning or with what his life offered.

_____

He ran into the dark.

Ten minutes along the unlit causeway, the road linking the city’s edge to the dunes, he was alone.

He carried a headlamp and most mornings he used it, the thin blue light a comfort, though it barely showed the marshland’s edge.

But there were mornings he didn’t bring a light.

Then he ran by habit and experience, by guesswork and luck, facing ahead into the dark that was everything and nothing.

_____

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This happens to the best and to the worst

FullSizeRender (6)You sit and stare into space.

You change tack – by sitting and staring at a blank screen.

You’ll do it tomorrow, and tomorrow – you said yesterday, and the day before.

You take a morning trip to the city centre, walk around, drink coffee, get rained on, hope that something will strike.

You return home.

You reckon you could squeeze out something on Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra, or your sign-up to Spotify, or running in December. Or that plate of sprats you ate in London, unlike any other you’d had.

You don’t – the blank screen’s in the way.

You make lunch and eat it. You pack a bag for a trip to see your father. You dig out a Sonny Rollins CD you bought a month ago but haven’t listened to. You google details about the CD.

You text your wife, telling her you’re set to start. You check Facebook, again.

You want to finish a book of short stories but you’ve promised yourself that you’ll do this first.

You assure yourself that this happens to the best and to the worst of them.

In desperation you copy a trait from a novel you’re just finished, writing in the second person narrative.

You start.

_____

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The eighth of December

Dublin. Pic: William Murphy

Dublin.
Pic: William Murphy

Every eighth of December rushes into one,

A memory dropping away, leaving just lights and traffic and mothers and young children

Green Dublin buses, darkening winter streets, throngs crossing.

But present always – a blaze of lights, which I still see, 30 years later.

That drew us, pushing, hand-in-hand, across Grafton and Henry and O’Connell Streets

One more shop, one more cup of tea.

‘Do we have time, before the train?’

Every eighth of December was a rush to the 90 bus, at teatime, down the long Liffey to Heuston.

This is gone, as is she, as is the ten-year-old who was with her.

But the lights remain, every eighth of December.

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