284 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 2 MARCH 2020
that’s as far as things go. In “This Way, That Way, Bump into a Sign”, a grandfather
no longer able to drive safely takes his young grandson for a drive
that nearly ends in tragedy. Fortunately, the boy is returned home
Other poems end with disasters. In one story set in Northern Ireland, “No
Writers Were Harmed in the Making of This Whisky”, Art and Jack babysit
Jack’s young grandson while the toddler’s mother, grandmother and greataunt
are out shopping. The old gentlemen plop the boy in front of the TV
and start making inroads on a bottle of Writer’s Tears whisky and light up a
few Viceroy Lights, with a touching faith in their own ability to cover up
their revelry before the ladies get home:
“Of course, yes, but there’ll be no smoking,”
Jack replies, an almost forgotten tone betokening an
elder brother’s authority creeping into his voice.
He unscrews the bottle cap again,
his fingers now less nimble.
“But the w-w-women are gone,” Art protests.
“True enough, but the boy’s not.”
“He’s in the next room, Jack.
No harm will come to him. We’ll clear
the smoke away with a bacon fry
long before they’re back.”
Soon enough, Grandpa Jack and Uncle Art drink themselves into oblivion,
and the toddler starts to wander the house. A beloved red ball gets into
the toilet bowl, and the boy tries to retrieve it, toppling face first over the
the full and unforgiving weight of his body forcing
his head beneath the surface of the water
and holding it fast there,
a nautilus in a porcelain shell.
Meanwhile, the unsuspecting ladies are having a grand time:
Kathleen, Fionnuala and Valeria revel in their
unknowing freedom. Glad and carefree, they
periodically check their new highlights and twilights
in the Vauxhall’s rear-view mirror. They laugh
and chatter while, as the afternoon fades,
Kathleen drives them all home from the hairdresser’s
in Magherafelt back to Knockcloghrim—
to Knockcloghrim where a cheap quartz clock
ticks bravely on and where, like an unexploded artillery shell
the end of the world awaits their return.
The poem concludes without telling us what will—or what should—happen
to Jack and Art. Would they, or their wives, or Jack’s daughter, or the