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Poetry Magnum Opus

Geoghan's Ghost


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Aequam memento rebus in arduis

seruare mentem, non secus in bonis

ab insolenti temperatam

laetitia, moriture Delli,

--- Horace, Odes, Book II, iii.

Geoghan tempers his moods of disquiet

with appeals to ancient personal gods,

pre-Christian, yes, that goes without saying,

but also pre-Celtic: he seems to gallop across

the millennia instead of a few mere centuries,

swearing or perhaps just furiously praying,

as he races to catch the 16A to Beaumont

with shoelaces undone and his long dark coat

wantonly flapping in the wind that whishes

and whooshes, aweela, wet from the slimegreen sea.

Geoghan invokes secret unheard of names and powers

that were hoary with age in the time of Baal

and Amon Ra; where has he learned these fearful

Stone Age imprecations? Surely not at home

with the mammy and daddy and his three sisters,

one of whom plays the harp and the other two

dainty violins, there in the plateglass bungalow

picked out from the All-Ireland Book of Designs

for Virtuously Vulgar Modern Living, garnished

with garden gnomes imported fresh from England,

Happy and Smiley, Doc and Dopey, Harold Wilson.

Geoghan’s oul fella was a turf accountant, as we say,

with our penchant these days for the gombeen genteel,

our building maintenance operators, our facilitators,

our elderly female recluses, kept well away from society

and formerly known as nuns; the priests, heaven help us,

are still in evidence, and you’ll find a fair few number

when fire alarms ring in the jollier parts of the city:

Come out there, Father, amn’t I holdin yer trousers?

Young Geoghan was never much good at manly sports,

at thumping others for the possession of a pig’s bladder

and then kicking it up and away like all our national teams

so that your heart could weep out of sheer frustration:

ah, would you pass or dribble, and not from yer bloody mouth?

But … but he had a steady sort of way about him,

not at all what you’d expect at the Christian Brothers

where they’d be beating away all that shite and nonsense

the minute you’d look up to stare in their dark flushed faces;

the fact is, they could feel something; and they were afraid of him,

not that at first I felt the same myself; no, that was later

when he’d look at me with those strange sea-washed eyes,

grey-green, pebbly, distant, unspeakably cold and old,

and it was then you’d feel the odd involuntary shiver

and would offer a joke or a beer, anything to break the tension.

Well, he died, of course, our poor unknowable friend,

and it is the matter of his end I wish to speak of.






Inde fit ut raro, qui se vixisse beatum

dicat et exacto contentus tempore vita

cedat uti conviva satur, reperire queamus.

--- Horace, Satires, Book I, i.


It’s only now I’ve decided to break my long silence;

I was afraid, quite frankly, of powers I could not control,

and I didn’t have the protection or belief of poor queer Geoghan.

I was brought up with the mumbo-jumbo of an executed god,

a new departure in religious thinking, when you stop to think,

a god who becomes the sacrifice, not the demanding recipient,

a god who says turn the other cheek and then does fuckall for you.

Geoghan saw through all that. Let me tell you what happened.

He got it in his head, seriously, he could stop the war in Iraq

and so prayed for forty days and nights, each day with two bottles of wine

(red and white) just around the corner from Trinity at the Lincoln Inn,

then, his vigil over, he proceeded, ceremoniously, to forlorn Ballsbridge

and the rounded concrete fortress of the unlovely American Embassy.

There for a while he disappeared, and his nervous band of acolytes

(I was not among them) stubbed endless cigarettes on the grey pavements

and waited and waited and waited for a sign. None, of course, came.

After three days helicopters arose like dragonflies in the clapped-out

dishwatery mauve and filthy pink of a ho-hum Dublin dawn

and shots were fired, we heard them, and the Air Force was called out,

all three of our serviceable planes, they went sqwark … sqwark … sqwark

to each other on the radio, like demented parrots, and we could all hear them

on Radio One; overall, it wasn't a great day for Ireland’s Intrepid Airmen,

with the other two muppets cheering them on from the ground,

their airplanes wouldn’t kick over when they’d stuck in the keys.


O Kathleen Mavourneen, the grey dawn is breaking,

The horn of the hunter is heard on the hill;

The lark from her light wing the bright dew is shaking …


so we hared over to Howth Head and Killiney, to the high ground,

to the two encircling, ensnaring arms of this fiercely possessive city,

and from there we could see it all, but what we saw can never be agreed.

The Americans … Irish military gunships? …tried to shut down the whole business

with their broken old record, their fee-fi-fo-fum of GWOT and Guantanamo,

but you might as well try to stop the tide as stop the Irish from talking,

although nobody (this happens a lot in Ireland) could quite agree. Only I could see

a strange awkward figure hovering, balancing there in the whooshing air,

his coattails flapping like the dark raven’s wings on Cuchulainn’s shoulder,

his mouth open in an O with a force of words that only I could hear

and yet barely make out, with the rush of the wind and the clatter of the blades,

and yet it sounded like … Hilatoth …Hilagath … Hilga .. Hilgamoth?

the sacred and doubtless secret name of a long-forgotten but unburied god,

and then Geoghan transposed into a flash of light and his form was gone forever.

No body was ever recovered. And the war in Iraq

was joined by another in Afghanistan . . . .

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

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  • 3 weeks later...

Connected with part I. Mytical, and almost creepy (and I loved it):


hoary with age in the time of Baal and Amon Ra



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