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8 September 2015updated 26 Jul 2021 8:17am

“Bar Story”: a new poem by James Conor Patterson

By James Conor Patterson

That night he takes the freight ferry
from Heysham to Warrenpoint
and stands by the railing of the upper car-deck
smoking Embassy Regals and flicking pages
from an annotated A5 copybook into the Irish Sea.
This is the act of giving back Eucharist –
Names, dates, newspaper clippings, sketches
of old girlfriends, addresses, phone numbers;
memorabilia useful to no one.
They leave his hands like frightened birds.
Later he’ll meet my mother
in a sawdust dive on Francis Street
after spending hours with his own father and uncle,
standing drinks and leafing through
a beer-soaked copy of An Phoblacht.
He tells me this in the Café Iruña
in Pamplona – twenty-five years later –
in front of a giant floor-to-ceiling-length mirror
casting golden light back and forth
onto our table like a private quasar.
I’m nodding and shaking my head
intermittently, listening to my Da’s advice,
and trying to imagine being more
than just the unintended consequence
of two strangers who took to marriage.
But it’s difficult. Between him and me,
things get summoned to inhabit our circle
like Ouija and as his story plays out,
someone does an accent, someone else a face,
and when the punchline finally arrives
we laugh, because neither one of us is talking.

James Conor Patterson is from Newry, County Down. In 2013 he received the iYeats Emerging Talent Award. He was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2014 and has been longlisted for the UK National Poetry Competition.

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This article appears in the 02 Sep 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Pope of the masses