With or without you

That moment in Rattle & Hum
where Larry is standing at Elvis’s grave
The eternal flame
The whole Graceland thing
The four of you
into Elvis’s
luxurious room, all plush and glitz and
this huge picture of Priscilla
Everything’s roped off
You’re not allowed to touch anything
The guide is nervous
What will these Irish rockstars do?
But you weren’t rockstars yet
Just four kids from Dublin who didn’t know the rules

(I bought the t-shirt in K-mart
I didn’t even have to go
to a record shop
All that marketing!
Same as with Elvis
Those people that got hold of him
He was just this kid from Memphis
who didn’t know the rules)

And I think
about standing
in a roped-off room
I think
about standing
in a roped-off room
in Dublin

And the other moment
Larry in a kitchen, wishing Elvis
had been buried somewhere he couldn’t
have gone

Larry’s right, as always
(Those drums
That’s the third moment
After the Elvis thing
After the camera has gone
from black and white
into colour
Under the sky
in that stadium in Arizona
In With or Without You
Those drums. Nothing
is hidden)

Larry’s right
as always
We don’t need
an eternal flame
I don’t want
a roped-off room
An enormous picture
of Nelson Mandela, or some other
African child

I hope that doesn’t happen to my
favourite band
making money
money, money, money-money
Even if it is
for victims
of abuse
or storms
or third world debt

We don’t need
a luxurious room
We don’t need
an eternal flame
We have one already
With or without you


(London to Dublin 2005)

Up like a shot off a shovel in Aer Lingus’s
shamrock embrace seatfabric woven
with the writings of Joyce and Yeats sky
melds with sea in a one of blue plane
if you fall fall now

Captain’s longsentence voice how arr ye
ladies and gentlemen welcome flight
attendant you OK there pay
in euro break a note Irish
breakfast on a plastic tray sweet
juice bacon and egg sausage
pudding smooth coffee soft
bread sky melds with sea in a wideness
of blue I plane cloud
blue cloud other plane cloud
blue if you fall
fall now

Cloud cloud green coastline
green green where I I
I want to be and Ireland’s Eye
in Dublin Bay and riverbits and buildings
and bluegreen watching mountains an airport
on the outskirts nearly in the country signed

I don’t need an airbridge faeries
float me across the tarmac breathing

(First published in Cottonmouth)

Theirs to destroy

No name for those steps I sat on,
where the sun sings through the leaves,
where the old stone is painted and marked
by pilgrims who give what they have,
words, marks, symbols. I used
my little knife, carved a crude
tetrahedron, its sides not as equal
as I wanted, to say I’d be back
some day.

Did my tears drip onto the dust?
I photographed my feet to prove
to myself that I’d stood there —
as if it isn’t burnt into my memory,
as if it isn’t in the screensaver of my head,
as if it wouldn’t always be there waiting,
my symbol weathering with the rest.
As if the newsfeed would never tell me
that the steps and walkway may be removed.

I guess all us pilgrims are causing a problem,
hiding in there, making noises at night,
tossing things over the walls,
stalking by the graffitied doors,
scritching with little knives,
worrying the children and gardeners
and the dogs.

But… so many of the places are going
in the name of now.
Where will we say our words?

The notes and beats and lines
are stored in my head.
The keepers might say I should need
nothing more. And the sites
are theirs to destroy, theirs
to replace. But I have breathed
those places so imaged on the Net. I have sat
on the dusty bench and got the actual mud
on the cuffs of my jeans, in the treads
of my boots.

Theirs to destroy.
Dare I ask?


Liffey boardwalk, June 2005

High-shriek gull-call high high slow die
High-rise low-rise help help no go
Murmur and rise-fall of Irish-English,
Japanese, German: locals and tourists
sharing the benches.
Tinny sketch-music in Japanese headphones.

River flows silent: don’t go don’t go
Footsteps, strolling the boardwalk past me
Bus rumble-rolling the street behind me
Horns tooting jaywalkers. Don’t go don’t go.
Ghosts. My own slow
breathing. Whirr and click of my camera.