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,
or perhaps between the students and the locals,
as if trying to straddle an invisible line.
My head tilted back against the wall, glass
and friends and chatter forgotten in the jaunty
reel of Ronan’s violin. Encouraged
by flirtatious, tipsy girls who zigzagged
back and forth between the bar and the restroom,
I chatted with a young accordion player
whose name was Gaelic and hard to pronounce.
We closed the pub down, I
and a few other girls who befriended
the bartenders and other musicians,
all of whom protested as we tried to help
clean up, collecting filmy, half-empty glasses
from every surface. I derived some small pleasure
from staying, four young women clustered
in a back corner of a dark pub
as the rest of the patrons emptied
into the frosty night.
As the night swelled into morning, I grew
inured to the rusty smell of Guinness
seeping through the entire pub,
through the walls, through our clothing,
into the songs sung by our new friends
swaying to the tune of the dark, frothy beer.
I fell in love with Irishmen who spoke of music
and words and the meeting of both, quoting poetry
and Joyce, quoting well and often.
As fingers of light brightened the floor
under shuttered windows, I fell in love
with Yeats’ stolen child.