Liverpool-Irish

On the whole, I choose not to choose.
Roots proliferate too readily through
The soil of nation into violence;
Like the blighted tayters that dumped
Us here, starving, in the first place.
But, if I must, let it be ‘East-Mick’:
The inverse of Gregory and Yeats
In the big houses of the West Brits;
A stinking tenement and shoeless kids,
The rhymeless flesh of my flesh.

My father endured the taunts of ‘tick’
(From a man called Keenan) and wore
The name of ‘Paddy’ uneasily;
Yet would stiffen to the reel
And set his jaw for the camera,
As was taught him by his grandfather.
He would laugh at the Pier Head Irish,
Gazing out beyond the river’s foggy mouth
To a neglectful motherland, through eyes
Rheumy with drink and false memory;
Doing the math on the rounds and neatly
Balancing their cost against that to re-buy
The family farm. Yet he was in clover
To hear his name in The Irish Rover
And talked of cousins in Wicklow
With the requisite exile’s glow.

This celtic mestizo thing is awkward:
Fit to be called diaspora
And marketed in song, yet welcome
Back not really, if we’ve stayed away
Too long. Suspect enough for passport
Stamps to keep us at the docks all day
For routine questions as to where we stayed.
Quisling enough to Cromwell our pitch
In a gaeltacht pub in Ballynahinch.
But, if pushed by census, ‘East-Mick’ it shall be,
Though, on the whole, I choose not to choose.
With no guilt of empire and no Inisfree
I cannot win, though nor can I lose.

By Martin Malone