Austin Clarke’s Dublin

for Maurice Harmon, on his eightieth birthday

Maybe it was June when he walked

among the poor and poor-in-spirit, 

whose lives would end on sickbeds

or in the Mansion of Forgetfulness

the Lord of Mercy looking down on them.

It happened in the style of cinema verite

Downriver to the bridge before the bay

the Liffey barges brought black porter.

That was when the poet with the wide brim over 

his eyes passed this way through the city he loved. 

Wearing the aura of a Celtic monk, 

his coat, a solid garment, buttoned up,

his walk of contemplation took him

to places we still behold: Merchant’s Arch, 

old St Weburgh’s where pigeons on the ledges

listen to Protestant bells: the call to morning 

service and later, the call to vespers.

Maybe it was June when he saw the ship of kegs,

met the scholars and slow-learners, 

heard church bells on Manor Street

and chatter from the dim saloons

packed with men in donkey jackets

and with five o’clock shadows,

whose backs were bent from work they did

in Engine Alley and Blackpitts.

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