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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

THE RUN OF YOUR LIFE - poem

Note from Paul Larkin regarding this poem -

Every week I go for a run in Phoenix Park. An alleged wit, and alleged friend, once suggested that it is not a run but a "stagger". Be that as it may, I run or stagger around one of the most beautiful parks in the world and find that I think more and pray more when I am running than in any other opportunity I might have in my life . This poem, The Run Of Your Life, started out as a light hearted sketch and gradually became darker and darker as my thoughts and writing turned to certain things I see or feel in the park and to my alcoholic father, Trócaire Dé ar a anam, who suffered a terrible death.

THE RUN OF YOUR LIFE

You are either a runner or you are not,
If you are a runner, you cannot stop.
Runners don’t run away from things,
They run towards them, saying
This is more than pleasure, this is more than pain.

A writer once said that you know you are a writer
When the thought of not writing is a terror.
We are writers of the road, pounding pounding on our toes
Writers are really running when they are typing,
We are all adrenaline seekers running from sheer compulsion.

This run will take you around the Phoenix Park, Dublin,
Which should be Bright Water - Fionn Uisce -
Páirc An Fhionn Uisce but, being the post colonial Irish,
We are already plunged into a duality
Who are we?, What name?, Where are we really?

And me only at the North Circular gate
The Proscenium Arch through which, as in every true marathon,
The whole of the Universe is revealed and yet
It is fitting there should be a Phoenix in the tale
To rise again stretching, questing, fibrillating.

Welcome to the portal of heaven and hell where
Thin, emaciated youths congregate like taibhsí
Looking at me like I am the madman - where’s the craic in that?
They burning for that score that will never come again,
The runner’s surefire iridescence, that glimpse of heaven.

Could they only know the overwhelming scent
There, just there at the bend, of wet hyacinth
That the runner greets like an old friend
Offering the first prayer, for a run is a penance,
Sé do bheatha a Mháire tá a lán do ghrásta.

Tá an Tiarna leat, an bhfuil an Tiarna liom?
Níl an luas ceart agam agus mothaím trom
Short of breath, mind and body knows what’s ahead
A stitch to cross, the eternal thread,
A barrier to breach for that first stage of grace.

On past the Garda barracks which will be Forever England
Will I stop and stretch? no, no place to bend the knee,
It was alleged that this road was flat your Honour
Is beannaithe thú idir mná, dig in and run Larkin for God’s sake
And with the first sprint, comes the fire of release.

I hear BBC Sport commentary and the voice of David Coleman
Tinny voice of yesteryear when all I knew was fear:
“And incredibly at the age of 48 Paul Larkin is breaking away
From the pack, still pressing, still pushing, still challenging the rest and the Crowd rises as one in response to this.”

Disturbed from my delirium by the machine gun heckle of flying geese
Or were they pigs? and fresh faced kids coming from the Zoo
All white skin and healthy Irish freckles, faces for the future,
One crying Mistah...Mistah. Ya dropped your bleedin pacemaker
For which cheek he gets a soft clatter from his da

A crowd, yes, a crowd, my Muse cries for a crowd
Now I am reforged by the hammers and anvils of my own self belief.
Unlike our artists hiding behind their abstract walls like thieves
Crying everything is relative and mocking the people,
Woe to the artist who can call evil good, and good evil.

This is my Lough Derg for the Holy Spirit and my dead relatives,
Phlegm in my nose and throat, spit and a nod to other runners,
For a man, the celebration of maleness and endeavour,
Was there a sharp intake of breath on the Left there?
Where the sheer joy of maleness has withered on the socialist vine.

Mise fear, muidne na fir, Fear - Vir, Fearúil-Virile,
I pray that we will once more learn our etymology,
That there may be no more toilet signs saying Gents,
There are no gentlemen in Ireland only stand up Men.
We are Fir agus Mná na hÉireann sin é.

Mise fear an dáin, uaigneach ach daingean i lár na coille,
Mise Achilles, no mere warrior but above all a runner,
And the embodying male splendour of the Achaean race,
Running knowingly, rampantly, towards his death,
Let me die at once rather than by the ships, he said,

Running Hector down and embracing Paris’s fatal arrow.
Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once,
Thus spake Shakespeare his quill scratching furiously
Knowing that before death, Heroes can outrun the Sun.

This is the runner’s essence - that all of human life,
The struggle to face the world and live with yourself,
The philosopher’s ultimate goal - the final acceptance of death,
To be at once at the centre of all things, and yet utterly alone,
Is a lunge toward the Godhead, to create anew on the other side.

I run to save the trees, the beauty of the bees, the storm of my sanity
Because I am the child of a dead alcoholic whose fever licks my veins.
I run, and pound and write as I am running, to save our humanity
So that once again we can remember and speak in verse,
Cuimhnígí, cuimhnígí, remember each other before its too late.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum, Veneremur cernui, et antiquum documentum,
Novo cedat ritui, Praestet fides supplementum, Sensuum defectui.
In adoration falling, The sacred Host we hail,
Oe'r ancient forms departing, newer rites of grace prevail,
Faith for all defects bestowing, where the feeble senses fail.

Push on along the North Road to Cabra Gate,
It is ever here I get the overwhelming smell of gas,
A nauseous reminder of the world outside
On every run in every prayer I have ever made in this park
Have promised to call Bord Gáis yet never have.

May this poem be the source of an investigation
Into this smell like bad drains and cowboy workmen,
Redolent of the poor who are locked in estates which all face
Inwards just in case anyone started to look outside the box,
The architect smiles at me and tells me less is more.

He collected his award to applause and left for his pied a terre
In the Languedoc where he entertained his guests in the depths
Of winter, who also wore black and nodded into their dark cherry
Red bowls of wine and yes he said, less really was more.
The lines, the clarity, the solution so pure.

Whilst in the block he created, a young woman was so curious
About the continual leaks of fire, earth, water and air,
As to why this ‘Spartan democracy in the sky’ drove her to despair,
To know what was more about less, the purity of stress?
As the truth would either drive her from suicide or over the edge.

She ran to the library and found a book on Mies Van der Rohe,
Breathless now up piss and stairs, as the lifts never did work,
She fell into her bed and read the book to her utter desolation.
And as the perpetrators of this lie quaffed and laughed
She stood on the very precipice, book in hand, and jumped.

Marauding journalists ever vigilant with their massive muffled flap
Of rooks murdering all deliberation with their CAkk! CAkk CAkk!
Swooped to devour the evidence which was ripped out at a hurtling ratio
Of one chapter dissected by her sordid sex life and girder squared
And quarantined so that nobody came, saw, pondered or cared.

As my feet find a rhythm, I mouth the mantra of the designer ghouls,
Beating them out in plosive fricatives at the Hole In The Wall,
Clean Efficient, Clean Efficient, A Functional Coefficient behind
A Jacobean assassin’s mask of pseudo science to enslave our minds
Do as we say, not as we do, live in the way we have prescribed for you.

I too have heard the siren call which has mesmerized our artists,
Unleashing the spectres of minimalism and modernism upon our psyches
So that all is a free for all, our free right to fall from those walls
Of brick that flake and pock at the first winter frost
Or the grey slabs of street that rush at you from the skies.

You were unadorned and un-mourned and yet the poor
Would have attended in their thousands, had they known,
I too stood at that precipice and looked and looked and swayed
So that I missed my balance near Ashtown Gate, the first glimpse
Of the Dublin hills and an unrestricted field of vision.

The clouds bouldering and blackening behind the mountains
A dog snarling and defecating in the grass, the owner looking askance
So that I am near abandonment and just wanted the lie to end.
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani - Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me!?
Only the anger in my lungs expels the oblivion of unbelief.

All seasons pass in this park of mystery and the black dog follows
Into night where all space is confounded and trees becomes gallows,
Where flits a chimera of chorus on the opposite verge
Crying the dog is my inner self and I must kneel before his image.
For he is the ghost of my amputated father's legs.

In rushes of hysteria they rail at me all the way to Castleknock,
For I reject their Freudian mantra that dreams are driven by sex,
Other visions persist, shared dreams of hope, of individual prophesy,
This very dog kicks and fits in prelingual prehistoric reveries,
There is a world of visions beyond science and psychiatry.

A dream can trick, was not Agamemnon fooled at his beaked ships?
Or, the dream of a people can dispel an Empire’s writ,
I will not be press ganged onto the Ego ghost trip
Where the raving sub conscious is raised as skull and cross bones,
A soulless barque adrift in the dog day seas of modernism.

A shout greets me, an old man hailing with his stick,
The greeting of strangers, one of the great joys of this city,
He is tall and handsome and boasts a bruise like a facial war wound
I read in his lines the mugging in a heaving shopping mall
That lost him some money, but mostly his pride at the fall.

Nobody ran to help and they were so young, but hunt in packs,
I jump a puddle and see in its reflection our people cracked,
By a growing callousness tantamount to evil,
The effete Irish intelligentsia retreating behind gazing navels,
Peeping spy holes, call alarms and exclusive neighbourhoods.

The free market mantra has done what eight hundred years never could.
Now we despise the old, the poor, immigrants, the Gaeilgeoir
And who will chastise the youth now that taboos are a game?
An old man is mugged, a woman plummets to her grave
Yet a multitude of shoppers just stood and dazed.

The old man waves to the driver-ants milling at the Gate
Who pronounce him clearly mad, an alcoholic with a busted face
And return to the consoling world of tailback traffic
Static fumes to kill the trees, and disc jockey inanities,
And all the cars are grey and not one ever moved.

The runner sees them all in their thousand petrol heads
Who go to war for Bush and Blair and the right to burn lead.
Millions of cars secreting an air, sighing status status status,
As the drivers belch and burp from junk food on the run,
They are fat, they are debauched, they are Irish every one.

These are the Pope's children, the new elite we are told,
Of babyboomers having a blast, like blazing missiles in Iraq,
Daedalus and Icarus across our skies, teens falling like flies,
Hung by their commuter belts in massive estates called Dingly Rise,
Where no shops are, no space to play, no place to die.

The Rich have turned for help to Freud and psychoanalysis,
Yet for free I can advise that their only neurosis is their avarice,
Their boredom with hoarding their mountains of unearned wealth,
Their suppression of the human need to think, reflect,
Their doomed first class flight from the non material, from Death.

Emerging from the pall of Styx to the reflections of bright Moon,
I am suddenly a Trinity of shadows running back to a future past
And the mist cushioning my footfall in the night run beauty.
Tá mé chomh aosta leis an ceo, chomh sean leis na cnoic
Chomh luath le giorria, chomh sásta le píobaire, chomh uasal le rí.

A fellow runner passes by, I know her only by her fragrance,
A revelation to me that women run in their adornments,
Amber pearls light my egress in loops of soft pale lamps
Her distance covered more quickly, yet time is still, constant,
She is my womb of dark and light, my mother, sister, my Goddess.

The present is but a fleeting glimpse formed by who and what
Has passed in the sweat, joy and anguish of the imminent
And the bells will ring and images will be raised eternally.
For the poor of all races will cling to the sanctity
Of the loved and the lost and the miracle of the incarnate.

Mar féach, déarfaidh na glúine uile feasta gur méanar dom.
Óir rinne an Té atá cumhachtach
Nithe móra dom agus is naofa a ainm.
Agus tá a thrócaire ó ghlúin go glúin,
dóibh seo ar a mbíonn a eagla.

Móraim mo ainm an Tiarna and my spirit has rejoiced
In God my saviour and it is here that we will worship.
This vault of sky and shade of tree is the new Temple of Christ
Now that Peter’s rock has been shattered by its acolytes
Sullied and besmirched by profane abuse and evil vanity.

Scaip sé an dream a bhí uaibhreach i smaointe a gcroí.
Leag sé prionsaí óna gcathaoireacha
agus d'ardaigh sé daoine ísle.
Líon sé lucht an ocrais le nithe maithe
agus chuir sé na saibhre uaidh folamh.

All around me is light and the communion of my dead ancestors
And their incantations for my dying father who writhes
In limbless agony at the dying of his light and yet with
Each pound of my heart, each bead of sweat, his terror
Eases in the state of grace that is forgiveness and release.

Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, come on Dad, get up Dad!
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, big breaths Dad, nearly there Dad
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, now get off that bed and walk Dad
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, get out of that hole and fly Dad
Mórann m'anam an Tiarna, fly away Dad on the wings of an angel.

Come now to the spreading shade of my ancient sentinel, the Tree,
For your affliction has left you and you stand restored
Amongst the heavenly hosts who are washed and cleansed
In the river of words and deeds of the people who called to me,
And this miracle they believed and worked for thee.

this miracle they believed and worked for thee.

And the son of a son
Who had run and run
Fell prostrate
Before his wide embrace.

Féileire

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