You had to drive across to Donegal town
To drop off a friend at the Dublin bus
So I said I’d come along for the spin -
A spin in the rain.
Bales of rain
But you did not alter your method of driving,
Which is to sit right down under the steering wheel
And to maintain an upwards-peering posture
Treating the road as part of the sky,
A method which motoring correspondents call
The hills of Donegal put down their heads
As you circled upwards past their solitary farmhouses,
All those aged couples drenched over firesides,
Who once were courting couples in parked cars.
You parked the car in Donegal town and we walked the shops -
Magee’s Emporium and The Four Masters Bookshop.
You bought ice-cream cones. I bought women’s magazines.
We drove on up through the hills past Mountcharles
And Bruckless and Ardara.
There was a traffic jam in Ardara,
Out of which you extricated yourself
Witha jack-knife U-turn on a hairpin bend
With all the bashful panache of a cattle farmer -
A cattle farmer who is not an egotist
But who is a snail of magnanimity,
A verbal source of calm.
Back in the Glenties you parked outside the National School
Through whose silent classrooms we strayed,
Silent with population maps of the world.
Standing with our backs to a deserted table-tennis table
We picked up a pair of table-tennis bats
And, without being particularly conscious of what we were at,
We began to bat the ball one to the other
Until a knock-up was in progress,
Holding our bats in pen grips,
So here we are playing a game of ping-pong
Which is a backdrop to our conversation
While our conversation is a backdrop to our game.
We are talking about our children and you speak
Of the consolation of children when they grow up
To become our most trusted of all companions.
I could listen to you speak along these lines
For the rest of the day and I dare say
You could listen to me speak also along my lines:
I have always thought that ping-pong balls -
Static spheres fleet as thoughts -
Have flight textures similar to souls’.
I note that we are both of us
No mean strikers of the ball and that, although
We have distinct techniques of addressing the table -
Myself standing back and leaping about,
Yourself standing close and scarcely moving -
What chiefly preoccupies is both is spin.
As darkness drops, the rain clears.
I take my leave of you to prepare my soul
For tonight’s public recital. Wishing each other well.
Poetry! To be able to look a bullet in the eye,
With a whiff of the bat to return it spinning to drop
Down scarcely over the lapped net; to stand still; to stop.
- Paul Durcan