By Colin Carberry, Canada/Ireland/Mexico
Accompanying Artwork by Verónica Gerber Bicecci, Mexico
(Published in Issue 7)
I missed them once, those tense demotic days
when we re-fought the old wars in the snug
of every rundown pub; those magic days
when we wuz roight gud mates; when every wrong
could be righted with a timely terrace rant
and a Bushmills neat. It hardly ever came
to blows, and even then it never went
past yellow card/‘parity of esteem’
of our sitzkrieg: two pints each as goal posts;
the barman, referee. I loved the sideways
stealth, the vicious give and take of those
creeping come-on attacks (for Saxon read
‘Limey prick’; for Celt, ‘Bog-Irish bastard’)
with anything that rhymed and gave offence.
And the lies, they were brilliant! You once told
four spectators that your dad played defense
for Leeds in ’66, but still managed
to score – from forty years out, I believe?
When they heard my uncle was Georgie Best,
the Belfast Boy, they wouldn’t let us leave.
Then take it home, the wee hours argument,
our chants echoing deep into overtime …
Till harsh words in Ireland sparked the blow-out,
and our habitual exhibition game
escalated into a full-blown black
propaganda and dirty tricks campaign:
poison-tipped barb borrowed barb, as the mask
slipped amidst the gregarious smoke-screen,
and we were mired fast in the implausibly un-
deniable zone of injury time –
beyond us the barman’s half-heard, Come on
now, lads. Have yiz no homes at all. It’s time …
Whoever’s to blame for the stress and strife
we caused one another, when the whistle
blew on our endless friendly we were offside,
the tally for all our troubles: Nil-Nil.
Colin Carberry was born in Toronto and raised in Ireland. He is the author of the poetry collections The Crossing (Bearing Press, 1998), The Green Table (Exile, 2003) and Ceasefire in Purgatory (Luna, 2007), and is the translator of Love Poems (Biblioasis, 2011), as well as an earlier volume of Jaime Sabines’s verse. His own poetry has been translated into many languages. Colin has read from his work on radio and television, and at book fairs, literary festivals and universities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, the United States, and Serbia. He founded and organizes the Linares International Literary Festival.
for Goran Simic
I linger outside your old apartment
long past midnight, listening to the rain shed
tears for those shell and sniper tore apart
looking for water or loaves of stale bread.
How in that dark time you managed to sing,
craft beauty from carnage by candlelight,
when the wind’s whistle was an incoming
mortar round roaming unseen in the night,
and stay sane is beyond me. I’m alive,
you shrug, but the black flicker of sorrow
and loss in your eyes even when you laugh
hardest will burn undimmed, for well you know,
Yugoslav poet, that for those who bore
witness the war would never be over.
WHENEVER YOU FEEL LIKE DYING
(after Jaime Sabines)
Whenever you feel like dying
hide your head under the pillow
and count four thousand sheep.
Go two days without eating
and you’ll see how beautiful life is:
meat, beans, bread.
Go without woman: you’ll see.
Whenever you feel like dying
don’t go kicking up a big stink: just die
and leave it at that.
ACTIVITIES OF THE DEAD
from a Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test book
Problem No 7. Point of View—
Activities of the Dead
(The instructions read):
In all patterns, avoid
using present verbs to refer to
activities of the dead.
The illustrations for these poems are by Verónica Gerber Bicecci (Mexico) and come from her project of Diagrams of Silence. Your can find out more about her work here: http://www.