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 pubs,
where Guinness flowed freely and music
was traditional, enchanted by the sounds
of bodhráns and bagpipes
instead of thudding bass and auto-tuned voices.
The boys threw back beer and whiskey,
their unpracticed arms contrasting
those of the hoary, bearded locals who curved
over the bar, cradling their pints. The girls
glued elbows to the polished wood,
batting eyelashes at Irishmen for want
of the sound of their measured voices
and the clink of ice in amber glasses.
But I nestled in the crook between
the musician’s corner and the bar,
or perhaps between the students and the locals,
glass and friends and banter forgotten
in the lilting reel of Ronan’s violin.
We closed the pub down, the few chosen
women who had been befriended by
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 strange pleasure
from staying, watching as the rest
of the patrons drifted into the frosty night.
We were the few, invited to linger,
to make drinks and music and merriment
well past the licit hour. We fell
hand in hand with this company
of silver-tongued artist and drinkers
as effortlessly and if we had always lived
in this world ruled by the piping pennywhistle
and the swift movements of bagpipe bellows,
a world confined by the pub walls
of dark mahogany and as big as all of Tir na nOg.
As the night swelled into morning, I grew
inured to the rusty smell of Guinness
seeping through the walls, through our clothing,
into the songs sung by our fair friends.
And in the grey between one day and the next,
I fell in love with Irishmen who spoke of music
and words and the meeting of both.
Fingers of light brightened the floor
under shuttered windows, and I thought
perhaps the Irishmen were faeries, and I
Yeats’ stolen child.