We lived in pubs.

This week our poetry was given a new limitation, one I’m not so fond of. We all wrote words on the board and Tita, my professor, circled seven that were interesting. We’re supposed to write a poem that uses as many as possible. I’ve been writing, and I used several in this, but something doesn’t seem quite right. Like…I’ve got a bigger idea here and I’m trying to paint a poem that captures the essence of my experience in Tig Coili’s, but I’m not quite sure that’s good enough. The words we had to use were: inure, zipper, dogged, zigzag, mystique, flippant, matrices, and derive. Here’s the poem I got out of it.

We lived in pubs.


We lived for late nights spent in pubs,

and I for one pub in particular, its red storefront

inviting, the Gaelic lettering white and illegible.

We were American students trying

to pass as locals in Irish bars,

where Guinness flowed freely and music

was traditional, enamored with the mystique

of bodhráns and bagpipes

instead of thudding bass and auto-tuned voices.


The boys spent flippant amounts of money

on beer and whiskey. They dogged the girls

who glued elbows to the bar,

batting eyelashes at Irishmen

for want of the sound of their measured voices and the clink of ice

in glasses of anything that was not frothy beer.


I nestled in the crook between

the musician’s corner and the bar,

head tilted back against the wall, glass

of Baileys forgotten in my enjoyment

of the bartender/musician’s violin. Encouraged

by flirtatious, tipsy girls who zigzagged

back and forth between the bar and the restroom,

I became acquainted with a young accordion player

whose name was Gaelic and hard to pronounce.


As the night wore on, I grew

inured to the rusty smell of Guinness

seeping through the entire pub,

through the walls, through our clothing.

We talked between music sets

Of everything Irish: of Yeats, Heaney,

traditional music, the profligate drinking,

the terrible education system, and my preference

for Baileys or Jameson but never Guinness.


We closed the pub down, I

and a few other girls who had befriended

bartenders and the other musicians,

all of whom protested as we tried to help

them clean up, collecting filmy, half-empty glasses from every corner.

I derived some small pleasure

from staying, four young women clustered

in a back corner of a dark bar

as the rest of the patrons emptied

into the frosty night.


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