I WROTE this poem in 2014 after the English poet Helen Mort, who, as well as being an excellent poet, is an accomplished cross country runner, asked me: "And do you run?"
Helen was in Galway to be a featured reader at one of our regular Over The Edge: Open Readings in the Galway City Library. The conversation took place at the bar in the House Hotel, Over The Edge’s regular post-reading haunt.
I have a chronic lung condition which, just around the time Helen asked me this, was becoming obviously worse. The poem references the New Cemetery in Bohermore where my Mother is buried, as are Lady Gregory and William Joyce (aka Lord Haw Haw ), who along with Nora Barnacle are surely the most famous Galwegians.
Question Asked Me By Young Woman Who Recently Won A Marathon
And do you run?
From the sound of this
cough, I’m running nowhere
except out of time. Since
Mom left to debate the finer points
with Lady Gregory and William Joyce
— late of Rutledge Terrace
and the Third Reich — up there
in the Cemetery; I’m aware,
for the likes of me, more is gone
than is to come.
I expect, any year now,
to fall off that ladder
I never go up,
to be staring blankly on the path
when whoever it is finds me.
Or one morning in the bathtub
to clutch hard both my rubber duck
and my anus, as I’m struck
by a terror cold as the North Sea.
Then, slack jawed, letting go.
Everything. All at once.