I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

The Workmans Friend


Not everyone, it seems, is wringing their hands over the state of the national liver. This poem is from Strange Familiar, a new collection by Catherine Ann Cullen, published by Doghouse.

Black Stuff

I grew up near the Guinness houses:
Corrib Road, where no river flowed
but the black stuff, delivered in crates at Christmas
to ould lads proud of the grand job.
Guinness was good for them:
Arthur gave them their pension,
fed their crate-load of children
from pint-sized to full of bottle,
gave girls and boys alike their first moustache,
rented them houses till they could buy them out.

I like its colour, muddy as the Liffey;
the way its black and beige dust motes
separate, settle into coffee and cream
in the time it takes to tell a story,
catch your breath;
its taste of roast and toast, that first sweet sup,
warm from the tap. You can’t sup beer or lager,
that lightness on your lip
could never be more than a sip.
And porter carries many a conversation still:
No beer is so hotly debated, so coldly assessed.
The perfect temperature’s a keg’s worth of chat,
even the distance to the barrel
is worth mulling over.

Last year we found a short tap in Tralee,
settled like slow pints at a corner table,
and parted with the landlady like family.
What better drink for your last request?
No claret inking thin glass,
or brandy burning in a great balloon
could see you off like the contemplation
of those last slow breaths rising and falling
till the head stands proud of the body.