When I think of love, I think of girl groups
from the sixties, the jangle and rasp
of the bruise put to lyric, the boyfriend
who will never come back, the three-part
harmony that returns him to the world.
When I left, the earth migrated.
I could not touch ground, not from ecstasy
or the unlikely homecoming to the deserted
self, but the unmooring from that blue life.
I flew to Dublin in search of a stage.
I wanted a troupe of drag queens
with brogues and stubble rinsed with rouge
to make light of what had been lost.
Rory would be Ronnie, kohl-ring and gravel-
throat chased with honey. Declan
would be Etta in a blonde beehive and white
heels, hollering under the spotlight.
I read How the Irish Saved Civilization
on the plane and counted my excuses, things
that were never enough: fingers of gin,
the body’s torch, the furious pull
of the moon. Perception had become a tune,
a hymn that required repetition. I said to the Irish,
sing me out of it, the bar song thrown
to the rafters, the wolves, who could make
a whole of the bits. I swallowed hymns
of whiskey, Dublin dusk, the bodies of men
gone pale in the island’s winter.
In a man’s bedroom one morning
I saw an old black and white photograph
of The Ronettes hanging on the wall
and heard the snare’s rattle and crack,
the splinter of the castanet, that all-American wail.
And I wondered if his parents fumbled
over each other’s mouths to breathe
in the back of a Chevy under windows
steamed with breath, if his mother rat-teased her hair
beneath the blow dryer’s dull storm, ground
cigarettes tipped with coral gloss into the stone street,
if on a morning, somewhere on a boulevard
white with daylight in Clare or Kilkee,
they lost their fair-haired to a bullet
in the back of a limousine,
myth in powder pink suit
crawling from the backseat.