Wake Me in South Galway

By Richard Tillinghast b. 1940 Richard Tillinghast
Wake me in South Galway, or better yet
In Clare. You'll know the pub I have in mind.
Improvise a hearse—one of those decrepit
Postal vans would suit me down to the ground—
A rust-addled Renault, Kelly green with a splash
Of Oscar Wilde yellow stirred in to clash
With the dazzling perfect meadows and limestone
On the coast road from Kinvara down toward Ballyvaughan.

Once you've got in off the road at Newquay
Push aside some barstools and situate me
Up in front by the door where the musicians sit,
Their table crowded with pints and a blue teapot,
A pouch of Drum, some rolling papers and tin
Whistles. Ask Charlie Piggott to play a tune
That sounds like loss and Guinness, turf smoke and rain,
While Brenda dips in among the punters like a hedge-wren.

Will I hear it? Maybe not. But I hear it now.
The smoke of the music fills my nostrils, I feel the attuned
Box and fiddle in harness, pulling the plough
Of the melody, turning the bog-dark, root-tangled ground.
Even the ceramic collie on the windowsill
Cocks an ear as the tune lifts and the taut sail
Of the Galway hooker trills wildly in its frame on the wall,
Rippling to the salt pulse and seabreeze of a West Clare reel.

Many a night, two octaves of one tune,
We sat here side by side, your body awake
To a jig or slide, me mending the drift of a line
As the music found a path to my notebook.
Lost in its lilt and plunge I would disappear
Into the heathery freedom of a slow air
Or walk out under the powerful stars to clear
My head of thought and breathe their cooled-down fire.

When my own session ends, let me leave like that,
Porous to the wind that blows off the ocean.
Goodbye to the company and step into the night
Completed and one-off, like a well-played tune—
Beyond the purified essence of hearth fires
Rising from the life of the parish, past smoke and stars,
Released from everything I've done and known.
I won't go willingly, it's true, but I'll be gone.

Source: Poetry (March 2000).

 Richard  Tillinghast

Biography

Poet Richard Tillinghast was born in Memphis, Tennessee. As an undergraduate at the University of the South, Tillinghast participated in nonviolent protests against segregation. He went on to pursue graduate work at Harvard University, where he studied with Robert Lowell.

Tillinghast is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Six Mile Mountain (2000) and The New Life (2008). Using formal constraint to shape and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Death, Eating & Drinking, Arts & Sciences, Nature, Poetry & Poets, Activities, Landscapes & Pastorals, Living, Music

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Allusion

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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