Jim Burke – The West End House

Profile Jim Burke LE Poetry & Writing September 2017

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The West End House, poems by Jim Burke

Jim Burke: Lives in Limerick, Ireland, and is Co-founder with John Liddy of The Stony Thursday Book. His poems have appeared in the Shamrock Haiku Journal, the Literary Bohemian, the Crannog Poetry Journal, the Stony Thursday Book, the Revival Poetry Journal, the Shot Glass Journal and the Live Encounters Online Magazine. He is a member of The Irish Haiku Society and is on the committee of the Limerick Writers Centre. Some of his haiku are featured in the anthology Between the Leaves edited by Anatoly Kudryavitsky.


I am leading a quiet life
in County Limerick.
Under a green hill
and St. Patrick’s knee-print.
I am an Irish man.
I was an Irish boy.
I became a hurler in the suburbs.
I had football boots
and an Ash hurley.
I turned it into a rifle.
I worked jobs in the summer vacations.
I can still feel those prickly scratches
on my knees.
I picked potatoes in another County.
I worked one job in a garage.
Couldn’t reach the air hose
to the fourth wheel.
The foreman bollicked me
‘That man could have died
if he’d driven away.’
I have seen my mother flip out
over the wrong beef.
I have heard her say she is leaving
and my father answer: ‘Fine,
don’t let me stop you’.
I am reading Division Street
by Helen Mort.
I have seen a union man
foaming with contempt.
I have seen him sign a truce later.
I have eaten beef burgers at Folk Festivals.
I have heard Donald Trump’s address
and the Donald Hall address.
I have been to Africa.
I took a taxi from the hotel Kanta
to the village of Hergla.
I have been to America.
I watched Olu Dara, take a moment
before blowing into his trumpet
in the Symphony Space
on the corner of 96th  street
in New York city
in the year two thousand.
I have stood in Times Square
listening to a white supremacist
and crossed the street to listen
to his black brother.
I saw a Hollywood star
walking on O’Connell street
in Limerick city.
I have dropped coins
into the paper cups
of my brothers and sisters
sitting on the hard ground.
I am leading a quiet life
in County Limerick.
The world is passing me by.
I once thought I was somebody
but I ended up someone else.
I loved my old man,
my mother too.
Home is where one starts from.
I met Van the Man.
I have seen the Cliffs of Moher.
I listen to Rambling Jack.
I have shaken hands with David Hildago.
I have taken my kids up Ben Nevis.
John Montague once called me a
doubting Thomas.
It is long since I was a believer.
I am leading a quiet life
in County Limerick.
The daffodils stand tall as skyscrapers
over tiny snowdrops.
Nothing happens here.
A crow eats popcorn.
A black bird bosses a Robin.
Up on the hill the children’s din
in the school yard
is loud enough to deafen Holsteins.
There is a rat down near the river
watching a tractor.
But nothing happens here.
I am taking up patience.
I have no plans for the future.
Let it come.
Let it bring the new.
I am not as young as I’d like to be.
I am not a drinker.
I have been drunk.
I have been sick the morning after.
I don’t drink enough water.
Let tomorrow come.
Let it bring music, poetry, romance.
Adrian Mitchell, once drew me a dog
on the fly sheet of Blue Coffee.
I am leading a quiet life
in County Limerick
it is three in the afternoon
and is not warm enough yet
for a horse to come to water.
I walk up a hill of poetry
between swathes of grass.
I am a note on a guitar
hanging on a wall.
I am for the refugee.
I have seen the Mona Lisa.
She was small.
I allowed her eyes
to follow me around the room.
I am leading a quiet life
in County Limerick.
Nothing happens here.
One man fixes fences
and walls.
Another turns a piece of wood
into a bowl.
A friend of mine
joins the Thursday night club
‘For company,’
he says.

The West End House

Dear James,

This is just a note.
Today, I saw your mother’s house,
I stopped outside.

At first I wondered who runs it now—
It is painted in grey and white.
Whatever happened to the library room?
Did some of its books travel
To Milwaukee!
The wild Atlantic beats under the house yet.
And your kind words fail to leave me.

I am keen to learn.
I think I am.
And you—
Is there a poem bigger than all of us?
Have you found it?

After your mother changed locks
At the turn of the Summer season.
Kilkee, in January!
I can’t believe I broke the rear window
Slipped my hand through, undid the latch.

Just an hour after hearing the farmer
Blow his saxophone at the crossroads.
We took your Fiat that was
Parked in a field, you had slept
Like a log, under the long wooden table
In the pub where your cousins called out to you
For a recitation, let’s say it, James,
Poetry did find us.

I turned away from it for many reasons.
Sometimes I fluttered in the breeze
As a butterfly does over a bed of nettles
At the roadside,
Didn’t know if I should
Be searching for something else.

Maybe poetry comes too late for me?

The wind blows and flows around Corca Bascinn.
The sky is blue and white.
The air smells fresh as the Kilkee Football jerseys.
The mayflowers burst from their hedgerows.
The irises are ready to stand up for a new season.

James, you were always the creative one!

Should I put my face to the door of the West End House
And listen to you struggling with a gas regulator,
On a freezing morning, me, pushing a wooden board into the hole
In the window, while the kitchen sings out its noise?

© Jim Burke

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