Sunday, November 11, 2007

Love Letter to Dublin

Preface: I called my BFF last night to brag about a particularly fun happy hour spent with him, him and him, and how she was sorely missed in the mix there. I definitely could have used a little more girl power. Plus, we all have horrible crushes on her.

Anyway, topics of conversation moved from the bloggers I happy houred with to blogging, generally, and my moving from two posts a month to daily, and how I'm kind of out of shit to say. She didn't specifically offer advice, but mentioned that she has tricks up her sleeve, such as these love letters to cities she's lived in. She didn't offer it to me as an idea, but if NaBloPoMo has taught me nothing else, it has taught me how to steal. I am deeply ashamed. Her love letters will be better, anyway, so no big diff.

I have lived in three different places in my life. Seeing as there are three Sundays left to this national blogging extravaganza, I hereby promise to devote a post to those three places: urban, rural and suburban, respectively.

Dear Dublin,

It's always difficult to write a letter to an ex-lover. We had a on-again/off-again relationship that spanned three years. We were together for two of those years, and they were mighty fine years indeed. Then I found myself, as your people like to say, erm, up the pole, and I left you and I haven't seen you since.

During our first year, ours was a definitely one sided relationship. I definitely didn't get to know you all that well, and yet, I have fashioned myself and my identity largely from our time together. I solipsized you, Dublin. I absorbed you far more than you absorbed me, which, of course is understandable seeing our short time together in relation to your 1,000 years here on this earth. I learned about you what I could. I knew what your multiple names mean. I know a bit about who lived on your streets over the span of time that you've existed.

Oh, but we had some good times that first year, didn't we, Dublin? Remember how I bicycled through your streets on clear days and when it rained, your disgusting street water flipping up all over me so that I often wondered, were it not for the wonderful calories burned and the way I knew your short cuts, if taking the bus might have been a better option. Remember the time I met that Italian girl at the Molly Malone statue at the end of Grafton Street (you know, the one who became one of my closest friends, the one with the square glasses that taught me how to cook and drink guinness until my eyes crossed), I, standing in awe of my sweet Molly Malone, with her huge boobs and that bucket full of cockles and muscles, alive, alive-o, and she, with much hilarity, trying to sing me Molly's song.

Remember the speckled sunny days? Those long, head-clearing walks around the soccer pitches at UCD, or to see the tulips in St. Stephen's Green? Remember the mild, cool nights with the rivers of whiskey and new friends and endless possibilities, with new people, new things, places to go?

I struck off, back to my digs in the US. You taught me something that first year, that I will never, ever forget. I am an American. See, when I first went to live with you, Dublin, I identified myself as an Irish descendant. I could boast that both sides of my family came from Ireland's shores to America's, not too long ago. After your famine. Before the turn of the century. We were still new blood here, relatively speaking. But I came home and I knew that I would never be Irish. I was not nor ever would I be. I wore running shoes with my jeans and I have this bland, American newscaster accent, my identity is American. I appreciate that difference.

I returned to you a year later. This time I would know you better. I wanted to study you, your history, the history of the people who had lived in your city and your country for centuries before I had the chance to walk your fields. The first time I lived in Dublin, I lived there to live abroad, to live life abundantly, to drink and dance and be 21 years old. I came back to spend time with you, to work towards a masters degree in Archaeology, and maybe try to carve a live out for myself in your streets.

I remember being nervous. I moved to Donnybrook, a beautiful but definitely inexpensive Georgian rowhouse on Waterloo Road. We lived in the Garden Flat, with the Great Room window facing to the southwest. My flatmates and I dubbed the flat 'Waterloo Sunset,' for that Kinks song. We definitely let the wine flow and the good times happen. Over all, though, I was there for you, and I was there for Ireland. I was there for you and for Ireland more than I was there for myself. I was never convinced I'd be an academic.

And yet, I learned the names of your relics and your shrines, I made an ass of myself trying to pronounce their names. I learned the lives of your saints and the measurements of your high crosses. I chose the tympanums and cornices, decorated with heads and curlicue motifs, built by your monks a thousand years ago upon which to concentrate my studies.

I set off in April of 1999 to see in person my queries. The Nun's church at Clonmacnoise. Cormac's Chapel at the Rock of Cashel. The Abbey church at Clonfert. There was Kilronan and Cong and my very favorite: climbing over stone walls, amid braying cattle and quite frankly frightened of 100+ pink spray-painted sheep, I met the stern faces of Dysert O'Dea.

It was during this trip that I met The Kid's father. A month later, in your fair city, Dublin, I was given the greatest gift I would never have wished for. The Kid.

I left you, Dublin, to start a new life. A couple of new lives, I suppose, technically.

But my love, it is still there, although I've not tread on your sidewalks for 8 years. I love the daffodils in the spring, the way clouds race overhead at speeds I could never imagine for a calm day, the smell of chips with garlic mayonnaise, the endeavor to find the perfect pint of Guinness. I love that your history is steeped in tragedy, but has endured because of valor and that stubborn refusal to die on someone elses terms. I do not love the violence of your past, but I appreciate how the past has added to the culture a humor and genuine enjoyment of life that can only be when you have seen the real sadness.

I love your land and its stories, stumbling upon archaeological site upon site. I love that the earth of Ireland has been churned and reused for gravesite then ringfort then passage tomb then church for ten thousand years. I love that your stones have stories to tell. I love that your people have lived vibrantly along, aside and within the history for all of these years.

Remember that poem? That poem about Newgrange by Seamus Heaney? I found it, finally:

Like somebody who sees things when he's dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges

That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,

Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving

And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the corbelled rock
And unsunned tonsure of the burial mounds,

I stand with pilgrims, tourists, media folk
And all admitted to the wired-off hill.
Headlights of juggernauts heading for Dundalk,

Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,

Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king's gold dagger when he plunged it in

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk

And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow

Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, to hold its candle

Inside the cosmic hill. Who dares say "love"
At this cold coming? Who would not dare say it?
Is this the moved wheel that the poet spoke of,

The star pivot? Life's perseid in the ashpit
Of the dead? Like his, my speech cannot
Tell what the mind needs told: an infant tongue

Milky with breast milk would be more articulate.

No love letter to you will ever be complete. But for now,




coffeedog said...

Wow. That is some love letter. Way better than to some far-off person. I feel like I have come to know Dublin a bit, and it was pleasant. Wow. Great writing! Can't wait for the next two Sundays...

t-roy said...

I totally remember a night at St. Mark's (of course) when you showed me a picture of Dysert O'Dea. Weird what sticks in the brain.

Mr Lady said...

I love this, and I love it because this is the part of your life that I missed. I have never asked you about Ireland, especially not over a Guiness, as I've always wanted to. Now I'm wishing I had.

Can't wait for the next one.

Leslie Dillinger said...

Thank you for remembering ole Ireland so well for me, and us. We WILL go back, circa age 35. We will drag Mr. Lady with us, for sure. She's got to see it. And we have to be in that goddamn country at the same time for once.