A REFUGE FOR POETS WHO WRITE IN THE LYRIC TRADITION,
WITH RHYME AND METER, WITH OR WITHOUT MUSIC
ANGEL FROM TIPPERARY
One morning in winter I stepped off the plane
By the frost-covered banks of the Shannon,
With my guitar and mandolin both in my hands,
All alone and without a companion.
At Finnegan’s Hostel in Limerick city,
Among the first people I spied
Were a yellow-haired lassie so young and so pretty,
And a scruffy young lad by her side.
His jacket was black, and his hair was slicked back,
And his body was small, tough and lean.
It was easy to tell that he knew the streets well,
Though he said he was only nineteen.
He showed me around all the streets of the town,
And would not let me out of his sight.
He seemed to take pride walking right by my side,
So I bought him a bed for the night.
I sang and I played in the pubs the next day
With this loyal young man as my guide.
Sometimes he’d come in, and I’d sing songs to him,
And sometimes he’d linger outside,
For they thought him a punk, and they called him a drunk,
And they saw what they wanted to see.
But I stoutly defended my young Irish friend,
For he’d been such an angel to me.
He showed me the places he thought I’d be safe,
And where I might walk into danger,
As if there were hooligans lying in wait
To prey on a wayfaring stranger.
And in the wee hours he confessed that he was
What I already knew him to be:
A guardian angel dispatched from above,
To protect and to watch over me.
And soon after dawn my sweet angel was gone,
And I never saw him again.
His work was all done; it was time to move on
Or go back to wherever he’d been.
And he did not look like the angels in books
Or in paintings I’d witnessed before.
Never judge by appearance or act out of fear,
Lest you drive one away from your door.
Potsdam, New York, 2003