Killary Harbor

By Peter Balakian b. 1951 Peter Balakian
I drove through the narrow Gods—
privet and cholesterol, or   
Irish creamery butter as the waiter

called it, as it shaved another day   
off my life. There was no salt   
and antimony, just lumpy roads

through Meath and Leitrim.   
The sky was a show of flashing   
mirrors as day broke on Rosses.

Tide out and weed like cow pies   
on the shore. The punt down and   
the EEC on the horizon,

as I read in the guidebook about pilgrims   
climbing St. Patrick’s barefoot   
every summer.

Out of the fog a man in Wranglers and   
spurred boots, clean-shaven, a cigarette   
in hand, waved me down.

“Scrum faced house at the end of the bay.”   
“Hop in,” I said. “You lookin’
for where John Wayne made The Quiet Man?”

“No.” “American?” “Yep.” “Don’t look it.   
You Jewish too?” “No.”   
“I-talian?” “No.”

The fog was lifting off the fern-scalded   
mountains across the bay, and the sheep   
marked red and blue looked like sweaters.

“Grace O’Malley hijacked British   
ships up here, and the Choctaws
sent $500 during the famine. Not a fuckin’ penny from the U.S.”

We passed the rusted hulls
of fishing boats and the scaffolding   
of floating mussel beds.

“The Downing Street Accord is lots of   
shit; Adams’ a frog on an oil slick.

When Lord Haw Haw broadcast for the Nazis   
from right here, do ya think he was   
a traitor or a patriot? … to us, I mean?”

I couldn’t bring myself to tell him
I was on sabbatical and looking for   
a place to write.

“They’ll turn the bog to Marks & Spencer anyway.”

“I’m looking for Knock-Na-Rae.”

“Maeve’s mountain? Two hours from   
here in the other direction.”

I dropped him at the scrum house   
half roofless and cracked,
where the sky seemed lower than the rocks

and the hills the color   
of red sheep.

Peter Balakian, “Killary Harbor” from June-Tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Peter Balakian. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: June-tree: New and Selected Poems (2001)

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Poet Peter Balakian b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Activities, Social Commentaries, Travels & Journeys

Holidays St. Patrick's Day

 Peter  Balakian


Peter Balakian is the author of several collections of poetry, including June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974–2000. His recent book, Ziggurat (2010), wrestles with the aftermath and reverberations of 9/11. His poems have been widely anthologized, including in the 1985 Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, and have been translated into several languages. He has published essays on poetry, culture, and art in . . .

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SUBJECT Activities, Social Commentaries, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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