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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Six Nov-Dec 2023.
Strange, poems by Jim Ward
“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met”
Although born here, I am strange.
Almost as strange as…
Limerick Norse, as the Desies’ Norman, or a Jackeen Garrison.
As Spanish bloodlines in Galway homes (“sallah looking”, me Da observed).
Irish speaking Anglophone of Celtic stock,
Guinness tap’s scourge – reformed, shunning the ‘Gaah’ for the soccer
– the sport of townies (yet international) –
Homebird; never a mile from a cowshite; oddity in a family of emigrants.
-Strange – the obverse of conventional, familiar,
But together forming the whole: United. And free…
to go to church or mosque, or not,
to march our streets or complain at pub counter,
to worship or deride elected ‘equals’.
Whether screaming jet engine, or canvas sail flapping westwards,
a score, or a hundred-score years ago,
brought you to this land, of dreamers-more-than-dreams,
which engulfs you now, and us…still,
make room in this once awkward, now confident, nation.
For my tent was pitched for me at birth, others make camp now…
Not fire for warmth. None needed.
Yes, remember…just a
In ditches near the house nettles gasp for sunlight.
And in cement corners they rise, scavenging in the shallow dirt.
A plant of the genus urtica, eaten as soup in Famine times.
They sting to punish whatever ‘enemy’ nature brings them,
as the loner spits sharp words, to ward off the unwelcome world.
As a boy I could safely pluck them – if you kept your finger and thumb prints
parallel to the leaves – then chew them; my party piece for a younger audience.
In short pants they stung like mosquitoes when we played, sprouting everywhere.
Hating their venom I chopped them to extinction, as ‘good for nothing’-
years later realised I had never tasted nettle soup – or had to.
As the weekend loomed, his card balance looked woeful.
The dole don’t last the week, he knew.
The last interview went well though, he might get thrown a lifeline yet,
he just might.
(three years now).
If not, Holyhead.
Only there’s Debra; chatting her up outside the club’s singles’ night,
a Saturday night rendezvous decided.
This made the dull week worthwhile; club neon to end its grey tunnel.
His sap warmed in anticipation – a girl, a wage – cause and effect.
Reasons to stay, avoid the boat train.
Friday’s post, the letter came. The standard reply. There’d be no wage just yet.
Later again and Debra’s phone call was so polite:
he seemed nice, she said, but she couldn’t make it tomorrow;
she was ‘back with her boyfriend again’ she said.
*P.F.O. stands for Please Fuck Off. It’s used as slang in HR departments
when issuing rejection letters. Women use it too in a different context
(Leonard Cohen said ‘the woman always chooses’).
© Jim Ward
Jim Ward is an Irish writer published for poetry and stories in Irish and English in various publications. His play Just Guff won ‘Best in the West’ award at Galway Fringe Festival, 2017 and has toured nationally. His poem 2016 Proclamation was runner-up in the Galway Bay FM/Thoor Ballylee Yeats Poetry Challenge, 2017. His poetry has twice been runner-up in award categories, including the Bobby Sands Creative Writing Contest, 2021. A second play Three Quarks was performed live via Zoom on February 2nd 2021, Joyce’s birthday, by The James Joyce Centre in Dublin. A memoir piece Begging from Beggars was published in The 32: Anthology of Irish Working Class Voices, edited by Paul McVeigh, in 2021. A new play, Goodbye to the Lost Country has been accepted by The New Theatre, Dublin for a performance next year. Jim is also a published cartoonist.