Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!
Dot (Breakers Cafeteria cashier) all dressed up!

Robby's First St. Patrick's Day

The First Day of Spring in Cleveland . . .

Is March 17th, come rain, sleet, or snow
(or more likely, all of the above,
all at the same time).

You can be fooled by the bitter wind whipping
Across the frozen lake
Down the urban canyons of Downtown Cleveland
The tornadic swirl of dust, cigarette butts, road salt
At the corner of East 9th and Superior . . .

But a block south, on Euclid Avenue, the road stripes are painted Kelly green,
The color of spring, hope, shamrocks.
Tens of thousands of men, women, children
Are celebrating the great Saint’s day.

Marching bands by the dozens,
the usual suspects: St. Ed’s, St. Ignatius, Holy Name,
and some surprises: the exuberant marching of Glenville High School
or Shaw High School, not a pale Irish face to be seen,
swinging their souzaphones like battle axes, look out!
These must be the famous “Black Irish,” and they’re welcomed
With cheers and hoots and clapping.

Pipe and drum corps follow and who would know
In Greater Cleveland that every Irish man, woman, and child
Played the pipes or fifes or drums.

The horses, mounted police, Lake Farm Park horse posse,
Any excuse to ride a horse down Euclid Avenue
Step carefully over the droppings!

Every Emergency Squad, police car, fire truck, ambulance
In Greater Cleveland, sirens blaring, parade down the street,
Followed by the politicians: Tim McCormick, Jimmy Dimora (Irish?),
The county auditor, treasurer, city councilmen, the mayor,
Politicians white and black.

This would be the time to rob a bank in Cleveland, we joke,
But not the time to get sick or into an accident
Because all the safety forces are right here
On this little stretch of avenue.

Here come the dogs, the glorious Irish wolf hounds,
Majestic, huge, tallest dog on earth

With distant cousins the Irish setters, prancing behind,
Friendly, stunning red-haired beauties,
 not-too-bright, deeply inbred
(sounds like my Irish family!)

Enough drunken kids are around to remind us that this is our broken city,
We tiptoe over broken bottles, vomit, and trash,
Ignore it, look beyond, to the floats and fun.

Lolly-the-Trolly transporting all the oldtimers
From the Eastside Irish American Club.
Followed by marchers with no excuse, no costume,
Except they want to march in their own parade.

At this point my toes are numb, my back aches,
I know it’s time to head for the Fitzpatrick Party at the Marriott,
See all the cousins, their children, and friends.
Have a laugh with them, drink a beer,

Toast our parents, aunts, uncles who have passed,
Shed a tear and a laugh,
Tell stories about Uncle Dick and Don, Jake Reardon,
Uncle Skip and his junk cars driving to work in Collinwood without brakes,
(How we grew up so poor in cash and rich in family!)
Wish blessings until the next funeral or wedding or First Communion
Or the Next St. Patty’s Day Parade.

This poem rambles, is discursive and long as the St. Patty’s Parade,
And who gives a damn because it’s
The first day of  Spring in Cleveland

Slainte! [March 17, 2004]


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