BARNEY SHEEHAN LIVES FOREVER
by derrick brown-USA
Two tired Americans stumbled through the stone streets
of Limerick Ireland.
Our money dissolved.
The books beat against our backs in our rucksacks,
heavy as the great castles in the skyline,
the ones fighting off renovation.
The Irish breeze chased us into every pub and we sat and drank slowly until we forgot we were cold.
or floated away drenched in Swiss river water, British gasoline and German wine.
Who knows what black angel spent the night on guard
eyeing my jacket
until she caught my head and laid me in the cobbled gutter gently
and removed it as payment.
In the morning bus, the fields raced us
a blur of flared gold and swinging emerald light,
We were starving for new epic territory.
Beauty swallowed us in Ireland and Barney Sheehan, a former jockey with hell in his veins and sainthood in his heart
turned us into family.
We were living off the kindness of strangers and drink tickets and long embraces and conversations of religion and death grazes.
He showed us the pride of Limerick with the bright energy in his vinegar tongue.
“Now boys, do ya want some eggs boys, Oh sure ya do, sit down and eat it up, go on, you know I ran for mayor once, I woulda been absolutely fantastic, I would. eat those eggs now! Cmon ya skinny little… I’ll smack em down your throat, what do ya want to do boys, oh I’ll tell you. Were going to see the city is what were going to do. Now cmon, you’re not done eating, Oh I…”
The streets of Limerick were coiled like a sea monster.
My Pal walked as fast as Chicago and kept up with Barney’s amazing pace better than I.
I stopped him and said I may never ever see this place again
so I need to take it in and walk real slow.
Barney Sheehan took us to the white house pub,
where the people listened as if it mattered and that night
it sure felt like it did.
In the window, he had hung an Irish flag and next to it,
An American one.
We thanked him and it felt appropriate to hug him.
“We’re all the same. Everyone in America is Irish. You’re home. Consider yourselves home, boys.”
The poetry and beer was incredible.
You could feel the words wedge right into peoples chests.
This was Limerick,
far from the soft girls in Dublin that
danced with us in a boat house until the sun bolts came on.
Far from those who will join the ranks of the wonderous and the vanished.
Far from Long Beach California.
Barney gave us a perfect tour later until a mesh of starlight fell across the island.
The streetlamps guided us through the tendrils of Limerick.
Cars whispered somewhere.
The soft hills were inhaling the night. Morning dropped all over us,
Barney showed me my Brown family crest and something inside felt ancient and my blood struggled towards the page, to try and touch it.
It felt like I had never had a history until that moment.
It is fair to say that Barney gave me history.
The next day, I went to river in a noon as overcast as wool.
The choirs of Irish rallying around me with the great acidic jesting that only the Irish can do well.
A country with an arm spanning west held me as still as the Lake of Innisfree.
The small tide came to me and loosened the soil.
Near the middle of the lake, two swans, one moving fast, the other slow.
The meandering and focused one, the drifting swan moved on to somewhere,
a glimmer in the wings
We are treading.
I wondered about Barney and what good words meant to his life.
I found this poem.
When You are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
I do not know when I will return to Ireland
but I promise I will return
If you keep your promise
to live forever,