Poem: Shakespeare in Ireland

‘Shakespeare in Ireland’

One bearded me, hop-addled, the hour late;

a rug-haired kerne, grog-blossoms in full bloom.

“What business have you here?” The age-old hate

glittering in those bane-filled eyes; the room

full suddenly of music, flute and fiddle,

as snag-toothed locals gaily take the floor,

advance, retreat, advance, rehearsing battle;

a merry dance they led us. But what for?

A charnel-house, this place: rain-lashed, hag-cursed,

a song that’s sung shut-eyed against the pain.

There is no future here, only the past;

a blood-revenant, come to avenge the slain,

who’d this night gladly kill me, one brute blow

as jigs and reels come rivering off the bow.

John O’Donnell won the Hennessy Award for Fiction in 2013. He has published two collections of poetry; a third, On Water, is due out this year. Available on the Irish Times website here.


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