FIDDLE-DEE-DEE

 

connemara1

And the poem begins

With a bellyful of Guinness,

As it should on a winter night stroll

To hear an Irish fiddler play,

Stroke and pull the bow,

Finger the Celtic ditties

My grandfather hummed

When he high-graded his bag of ore—

One brogan tapping time.

 

Irish brogues lilt the lobby

And stage of the Music Recital Hall,

Wheedle restrained laughter

From the standing room only crowd

Of students and gray-haired patrons.

Tonight nobody dances in the aisles.

Stinking of beer and nostalgia,

I find my way to a balcony seat and ease

Into polite company, close my eyes

And smile in the dark, let the fiddler

 

Transport me to that third floor flat

In Butte, America—Irish refugee

Camp—corner of Montana and Dublin

Gulch where my grandparents arrived

In ‘17 from Galway with my uncle

Who died in the mines, and where

My father was delivered squalling

In the dust and smoke of an industrial

World that promised little more

Than more misery and grief. Still,

 

The fiddlers, that voice of the Irish,

Raged while the people danced

And drank, cried and cheered and died—

Free to sing—unlike this auditorium

Audience’s quiet contemplation of

Art and sound, prescriptively punctuated

By evenhanded applause—reminiscent

Of academic poetry readings: arching

Brows followed by nods, and often

A pensive gaze. No hoots,

No whistles or cat calls.

 

I suppress a beer burp

That could clear the balcony,

Pucker the stout-gas my ass wants

To let go, and use my telepathy to ask

The master of the bow, “So who

Do you love, James Kelly?

Who do you love besides your father,

The Chieftains, and the music

Inside your head?” You must have loved

Your grandfather when you were a kid.

 

Was he a doodler like mine

Who mumbled all the time these tunes

He’d sing drunk or sober? Old Martin

Fiddled with his tongue, pick

In hand, rode those rhythms he mouthed

To accompany the day. No one

Bothered about his songs as he shoveled

Away. Damn few understood a word

He said, and he sang continuously:

 

Hi-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, die-dill-dee,

Dee-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, die-dill-dee,

Hi-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, die-dill-dee,

Hi-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, die, dee-dee!

 

Fuck the queen! An’ pass The Paddy!

Remember to mind yer fuckin’ manners, laddy!

The fiddler is speakin’, ye blatherin’ arse!

So, shut it! The souls of the ancestors

Are talkin’. Let yer lips like yer feet take a stroll,

Do the walkin’. Just be careful ye don’t stumble,

Take a tumble in the weeds, turn up dead

As Old Man Brown. Give it a whirl!

Try dancin’, not gawkin’ like a fuckin’ fool

At the girls who could teach ye a thing or two

About fiddlin’ around, dancin’ in the dark,

And ridin’ the sweet strokes of Kelly.

 

Hi-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, die-dill-dee,

Dee-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, die-dill-dee,

Hi-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, die-dill-dee,

Hi-dill-dee, dee-dill-dee, die, dee-doo!

 

–for James Kelly

 

 

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