EXTERNAL AFFAIRS /
At eighteen you discovered how Leitrim was located,
Anonymously and miraculously, amid a labyrinth
Of small North Dublin streets of red-brick terraces,
Down which musicians slipped with instrument cases.
The old countryman welcoming you at his hall door,
A magnolia painted parlour, ablaze with evening light,
Where every Sunday flotillas of musicians gathered
For sessions that gathered pace until late at night.
Box players from Limerick, a fiddler from Kilrush,
Student teachers whose concertinas had been seized,
Pipers who wanted bodhráns played only with billhooks,
And sean-nos singers home from labouring jobs in Leeds.
The way Sonny Brogan could conjure a sense of Leitrim,
By playing unadorned sets of jigs on his accordion,
As sparse and crisp as a hillside white with frost,
As exhilarating as walking a girl home in the dark.
Candles of horse chestnut above the college walls,
Emigrants on open-backed buses bound for the boat,
College life, mysteries of bra straps and Cavan girls,
Sweat on dance club walls, Brilcream, saxophones,
And a passport every Sunday into a different world
When musicians gathered in Sonny Brogan’s home.