On a bright Good Friday morning when Good Friday was Good Friday I was sitting behind the counter of the bookshop, then in High Street. Suddenly, the front door windows blacked out, the door opened and one of the biggest men I have ever seen walked in, followed by a much older man, obviously a relation. They greeted me in Irish and then passed through to the Gallery.
About ten or fifteen minutes later, he re-emerged and lost in the palm of his hand was a miniature painting of a sea wave crashing over a rock.
“Cé mhéid é seo?” (How much is this? ), he asked me.
“Cúige dó punt” (Fifty two pounds ), I answered.
“An dtógaidh tú cúige?” (Will you take fifty? ). “Tógfaidh” (I will )
Whereupon, he handed the painting to the older man, took a wad of notes from his pocket, peeled off five ten pound notes, handed them to me, took back the painting - once again lost in his palm - looked intently at it for a minute, said “Feicim é sin gach lá” (I see that everyday ), put it in his pocket and walked out the door.
This iconic event came to mind recently when a small package landed on my desk. It contained an almost miniature book within which was the blurb announcing “The Word Ark" : A Pocket Book of Animal Poems. This small book fits easily in the handbag or back pocket and is, in the words of its editor, Pat Boran, “An invitation to look more intently at the world beyond ourselves, an external balance to our inner turmoil”.
Beginning as a collection of Boran's own animal poems, he found himself dipping back into the 150 or so titles he had produced for the Dedalus Press and the book morphed into something more ambitious. Instead of a handful of poems, he ended up with a subtantial list of contenders, all jostling and braying for admission to what would soon become The Word Ark.
Beginning with a poem featuring 'Ants' by Grace Wells and finishing with a poem called 'Wren' by Paddy Bushe - the last verse of which reads “And when you climbed the ladder of seed- pods/ To sway and sing in the ruffling wind, my heart sang too, as if suddenly lifted/ To majestic heights on an eagle’s back” - the collection offers a glistening antidote to the current uncertainty that is generally refreshing as with the poem 'Letting the Cat out of the Bag' by Joseph Woods; “When my father stole/ into the scullery// having faltered over fields/ into the flooded quarry, // which naturally we were/ against and was bottomless,/ he announced he’d never/ carry out an act like it again://gathering the kittens/ with their mother/ and weighing the whole shebang/ into a loose-stitched sack.// All the more strange, even alarming, // when within a week/ the mother arrived back// to sit on the windowsill/ and observe for some years// my father’s uneasy comings and goings”
The Word Ark is the perfect gift in these days of uncertainty.