A Blessing On All Things Made Well
Michael Egan made a set of uilleann pipes
in 1850. Now they lie silent in a glass display
case at the Museum of Country Life
under a sign that says:
Approximately in the key of C.
I love the beauty of those words.
You can’t but admire the care and precision
Michael put into making these pipes-
As tuned to this life as possible
For isn’t everything, if looked at closely,
A little off key: lovers and dancers
Only a step out, a step away;
talkers on the tips of their tongues;
towns at no distance;
doors and drinkers slightly ajar.
I’d like a copy of that sign to hang on my wall.
Especially in winter, when the poems are buckled, bent,
Every one of them ‘Approximately in the key of C’.
My computer crashed last night
It was as if the house burned down,
but no fire brigade arrived,
no detectives came
to dust for prints,
no priest called to tell me
he was sorry for my troubles.
Just you, standing
In the doorway, asking,
Did you back it up?
And I had to say
I hadn’t even indicated,
Hadn’t even put it into reverse.
Don’t say you’ve lost everything.
You can’t have lost the new manuscript.
Well not exactly: the dusty
scribe who lives inside of me,
that flustering old pedant
who likes the sound of dust settling,
who finds words frayed things
unequal to their task,
he wrote it all down
in his slow doddery way
word by word
with pen and ink
Acoustic, you might say,
before it all went electric.
Tunes Carried On The Night Air
The Sliabh Luachra barn lifts her
wooden skirt, dusts herself down,
then dances to reels and jigs.
Her shuffling feet wake
the fox in the field,
the blackbirds in the trees.
Their sudden scatter revives
The drunk floating along in the dark,
Heading home. “Play on” he shouts,
“We have the moon on the run,
and I can see my old father
dancing, cracking the flags.
He loved to see a barn dance
a moon waltz,
a man raise his glass
to the piper, the fiddler
the box player and the singer.
Play on lads” he shouts, “Play on!”
Poems are from Approximately in the Key of C published by Arc Publications (UK)
Tony Curtis is a regular contributor to Tinteán. He was born in Dublin in 1955. He studied literature at the University of Essex and Trinity College, Dublin. He is an experienced facilitator of poetry and creative writing workshops with both adults and children and is a regular contributor at the Clifden Arts Festival. In 1993, his poem The Dowser and the Child won the Poetry Ireland/Friends Provident National Poetry Competition, while These Hills won the Book Stop Poetry Prize. In 2003 he was awarded the Varuna House Exchange Fellowship to Australia. His new collection ‘Approximately in the Key of C’ (published by Arc Publications (UK) was launched at the Clifden Festival in September 2015. He hopes to visit Australia in 2017.
I have recently returned from a trip to the UK and Ireland, where I spent some time in Clifden and not having heard of Tony Curtis, randomly picked up a book of poems in the Clifden bookshop – a gorgeous shop by the way. It was ‘Approximately in the Key of C’. I have to say – I fell in love with his poems on first reading!! They are lovely, sweet, large, simple, dramatic and sometimes almost darkly funny; and I felt as though I could smell & touch the Connemara country when reading, though he writes a few from the US as well.
I’m thrilled that he may be coming here next year – hopefully!!! to Melbourne, though if not, and he only visits Sydney, I would go up to hear him.