Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hiram Irish Music Session--Spring Version

Today we had the spring edition of the Hiram Irish Music Session. The word "session" (in Irish "Seisiun") is a term used among players of Irish music and it simply has to do with musicians getting together and playing Irish (and other types) of songs, jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, marches, airs, planxties, etc. for two or three hours. Often sessions take place in pubs; this one takes place a few times a year in Frohring Hall, the music building at Hiram College. Tina Dreisbach organizes it and leads it, along with her husband Paul.

Today's session had about 22 musicians and 15 observers. There was a great variety of instruments. I counted about 4 fiddlers, 2 or 3 Irish flute players, many whistle players, 2 people with mandolins (one with a metal resonator), an Irish bouzouki player, a harpist, a bodhran player (Sheldon Firem), many guitarists, a ukulele player, a couple of concertina players, an autoharp player, a pianist, and perhaps other things I just missed. I knew some of the musicians, but certainly not all!

Sheldon on bodhran; Tina on Irish flute

Rob, on piano; he knows every tune and every verse of every song!

Nice view of many of the musicians

I will list many of the tunes played at today's session (my favorites in bold print)

Ash Grove
Augusta Waltz (Bob McQuillen)
Bride's Favorite
Friendly Visit Hornpipe
Keane O'Hara's 1st Air
Hewlett (O'Carolan)
Golden Keyboard
Sligo Maid
Amelia's Waltz (Bob McQuillen)
Sally Gardens (song)
Madam Maxwell (O'Carolan)
St. Anne's Reel
Boyne Hunt
Haunted House
Banshee's Wail
Haste to the Wedding
John Ryan's Polka
Raglan Road
Dennis Murphy's Polka
Ger the Rigger
Maggie in the Wood
Enchanted Lake
Eleanor Plunkett (O'Carolan)
Fanny Power (O'Carolan)
Morning Star
Longford Collector
Whiskey in the Jar (song)
Danny Boy (song)
Whiskey Before Breakfast

. . . and many more!

Garrettsville, Ohio--Downtown Fire

Mains Street, Garrettsville

Garrettsville--Main Street

The Village Bookstore, across the street from the fire
There was a terrible fire in Garrettsville, Ohio 8 days ago, burning down an entire block of old buildings. News sources said 13 businesses were destroyed and the fire was fought by some 35 fire departments. I was in nearby Hiram today for an Irish music session (organized by Hiram music professor Tina Dreisbach). One person who often plays at the session is harpist Ellen Eckhouse, who owns The Village Bookstore in Garrettsville. After the session I drove into Garrettsville to take a look. Ellen's store seemed untouched by the fire, but across Main Street everything was destroyed.

Garrettsville is a place important to me. James A. Garfield was around this town because of his studies and teaching at Hiram College. And Garrettsville is the birthplace of an influential American poet, Hart Crane. Hart Crane's father, Clarence Crane, had a huge maple syrup operation in town, said to be the largest in the world, and was the inventor of Life Savers candy.

Robby at 3 Months

Robby Kleppel
This boy smiles at you and "talks" to you. It is so beautiful; he is so beautiful!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Early Spring Flowers at Holden Arboretum

Not much progress this early spring, but there is some progress. At Holden Arboretum we saw winter aconite, snowdrops, skunk cabbage, spring-blooming witch hazel, and cornelian cherry (a kind of dogwood). The magnolia buds are swelling, and we saw some variety of heather in bloom.

Not sure what this is! Witch Hazel?

Winter Aconite
Magnolia flower buds

Witch Hazel


The Enormity of the World's Grief; the Great Gift of Companions

I just got an email from some old friends, Gene and Dorothy Chao, now living in Arizona. Their email had the following sign off: 

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.  Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now.  You are not obligated to complete the work.  But neither are you free to abandon it."-- from the Talmud.

I immediately thought--these old friends are just like my new friends in the Karpos ministry at St. Mary's in Painesville. Thinking of all these friends, I wrote the following little poem:

Thanksgiving for Companions

Dear Lord

we thank you for our family
our friends, these amazing companions
we share our lives with these women
and men of courage share
our bread and music, song
and suffering

thank you lord for these amazing gifts

let me be a gift to them also

[Bob Coughlin / March 29, 2014]

Poem for Linda and the Grand Babies

Still Life, With Grand Babies
--for Linda

You on the blue recliner,
Twelve-week old Robby over your right shoulder,
Three-year-old Colin snuggling you on the left,
Close to your heart

Close to your heart!

Bob / March 28, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

John McCutcheon's Concert at Nighttown

John McCutcheon, America's great folksinger, had an intimate concert for between 80 and 100 people last night at the Nighttown Tavern in Cleveland Heights. John has played many huge venues (Wolf Trap, for example), so it was a treat to be about 20 feet away from him in this warm and cozy tavern.

I was lucky to talk to him briefly right before he went on stage. I told him how we saw him in concert near the beginning of his career, in Pippa Passes, Kentucky (a tiny town in a county that didn't have a single stoplight!). John smiled broadly and said, "Alice Lloyd College!" Then he bounded out to the stage. He began the concert with the first song he ever learned on the banjo--an "Old-Timey" banjo tune written by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground." John met Bascom when Bascom was about 90 years old--and still playing his music. John's old-timey style was simple, old-timey plunky.

John weaves stories in and out of his music. The stories are wonderful and often hilarious. One great story was set in his Wisconsin home in 1963 when John was 11 years old. In the middle of the day his mother invited him to sit next to her on the couch as they watched the 1963 March on Washington, that featured great music (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary) and the amazing "I Have a Dream" speech of Martin Luther King Jr. John's mother was deeply sympathetic to this--and you can clearly see the love John still holds for her and how profoundly he was affected by her. [John's song about this can be seen below.]

John played for 2 hours, his own songs (like "Christmas in the Trenches"), and songs by his masters like Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn!" (accompanied by a hilarious story) and Woody Guthrie's "Joe Hill" and "This Land Is Your Land." A very short video clip from "Turn, Turn, Turn":

My favorite song all night was a beautiful one he did about his mother, "One in a Million."  Here are the lyrics:
I remember that August
A half million gathered
On our small TV
The moment was magic
With dreams in the air
My Mom watched in wonder
And said, “I wish I was there”
But there were babies to diaper
And a whole house to clean
So she watched the world change
On that black-and-white screen
She was one in a million
Who did her small part
And she carried that banner
Held high in her heart
She taught me the Bible
Each chapter and verse
How the meek shall inherit
And the last shall be first
She said, “God leaves God’s work
“To me and to you
“When you’re meek and you’re ready
“What will you do?”
Though she seldom traveled
Far from her front door
She watched the world change
In the children she bore
You are one in a million
You each have a part
Always carry that banner
Held high in your heart
Those children now scattered
Like ships on the sea
Mounting adventures
That she’d never see
I never once doubted
What she said was true
I saw miracles mounting
And small victories counting
And it’s all worth recounting
This work that we do
Each Mother’s Day sadly
I look to the chair
Now fifteen years empty
And wish she were there
So this year I traveled
As her eldest son
To a Washington March
Just as she would have done
I marched for the future
In a million mom sea
I was marching for her
I was marching for me
I was one in a million
Just doing my part
And I carried her banner
Held high in my heart
©2000 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP).

During the concert John played 8 instruments: 5-string banjo; 6-string guitar; 12-string guitar; hammer dulcimer; autoharp; piano; fiddle; and jaw's harp. The jaw's harps, which he had gotten from Pete Seeger's brother Mike, were incredible. John also has a beautiful voice. But most of all, he has this wonderful humanity and passion. He lets his music and storytelling serve both beauty and justice. He stands up for what is right, just like his friend Pete Seeger and his mentor Woodie Guthrie.

John McCutcheon is a national treasure, and I'm so glad Linda and I could see him play in the wonderful, intimate venue of Nighttown.

Linda, at Nighttown.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Lyrics to John McCutcheon's Song, "Calling All the Children Home"

I am so excited about the chance to hear John McCutcheon in concert tonight (Nighttown in Cleveland Heights). One of my favorite McCutcheon songs is "Calling All the Children Home." The song clearly seems autobiographical about growing up in a big Catholic family in Wisconsin. It is so evocative of childhood, including my own. And it shows the power of good parenting because good parenting can offer children a sense of security. And this security empowers them go out beyond their own family and address the needs of others. In John's song, it is the needs of other children throughout the world, many less fortunate than him. The lyrics below show John's wishes for all the children of the world. These are wishes I have for my own kids:

"Calling All the Children Home"

Song credits: 
Words and Music by John McCutcheon
"John, Mary Claire, Lulu, Jeanie
Kevin, Jeff, Patty, Nancy, Rob"
Shadows growing longer, light is growing dim
Supper's on the table everybody come in
Been playing at the river and I'm tired to the bone
She's calling all the children home
Home to the table and the big, black pot
Everybody's got enough, 'though we ain't got a lot
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
When she's calling all the children home
Everybody's sittin' in everybody's place
With their fresh-scrubbed fingers and their fresh-scrubbed face
It's quiet just a minute while sister says a grace
Like she's calling all the children home
I could hear her voice in the middle of a crowd
It was never too late and it was never too loud
Smelled just like home by the time we hit the door
There was always just enough but there was always room for more
So, out in the desert, down by the sea
Hear the voice calling "Allee, allee in free!"
From the city to the forest where the wild beasts roam
We are calling all the children home
Home to the table, home to the feast
Where the last are first and the greatest are the least
Where the rich will envy what the poor have got
Everybody's got enough, 'though we ain't got a lot
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
When we're calling all the children home

Gathered 'round the table and the big, black pot
Everybody's got enough, 'though we ain't got a lot
No one is forgotten, no one is alone
From the sacks in Soweto to the ice of Nome
From Baghdad City to the streets of Rome
When we're calling all the children home
"Moishe, Isabelle, Sipho, Kim
Mohammed, Mikael, Red Hawk, Tim"
©1990 by John McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP).
Album Reference: 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Great Folk Singer John McCutcheon Coming to Nighttown Tavern on Thursday, March 27th

John McCutcheon

I can hardly think of a more wonderful night out--John McCutcheon, the national treasure folksinger, playing his instruments and singing his songs at Brendan Ring's great pub in Cleveland Heights, Nighttown. It's happening tomorrow at 8 pm.

I first met John back in 1978, at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. John did a little concert then came to a party afterwards. I have seen him in concert a few other times. Once in a church in Kent, Ohio; once at Lakeside (Ohio's Chautauqua) near Marblehead, Ohio. And I think at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights. John comes originally from Wisconsin, but has made his life and career around Virginia. Of course, much of the time he is touring the country and the world. All of his songs are fun, and some of them are very focused on social justice issues. He accompanies himself on guitar, banjo, fiddle, hammer dulcimer--and probably a dozen other instruments.

John has an interesting website: John McCutcheon On his site you can read his bio, sample and purchase his music, and look at his concert schedule.

One of my favorite John McCutcheon songs is "Calling All the Children Home." I didn't find a great version of that on Youtube, but I did find a nice performance, with John playing hammer dulcimer, of "Step by Step":

A fine poem by Steven Coughlin

Steven Coughlin is no relative, as far as I know. But this is a poem older Catholics can relate to. Thanks to Ellen McHugh for sending this to me:

“sacred heart” by steven coughlin

Steven Coughlin
I miss praying Hail Marys with my father as we rode in his oversized El Camino
whenever an ambulance sounded in the distance. I miss my mother knocking
on my door each Sunday morning, 8 a.m., insisting it was an insult to Jesus Himself
if I did not get out of bed. There was the white cassock I wore as an altar boy.
The Feast of the Ascension when Tom Carter, yawning wide,
dropped the thirty-pound wooden cross. I miss Father Barry’s horrified gasp.
Everyone was Irish-Catholic; everyone pretended not to know each other’s secrets:
Mr. O’Shea, always in a green blazer on Sunday, who walked out on a wife
and seven children to a start a new life with a twenty-three-year-old florist.
The girl sitting beside me in eighth grade had hair so fiercely red
I couldn’t ignore the crude thoughts intense as sun flares. I miss Sister O’Connor,
eighty years old, blind in one eye, explaining the function of each bead
                on the rosary
as David Henry drew stick figures engaged in sexual acts none of us quite
I will never miss walking to school in ninth grade terrified the distant sky
judged my every thought, or kneeling before my bed praying obsessively,
working myself to tears—three Our Fathers for each person I knew who had died.
I will never forgive Monsignor O’Neil for instructing me to say the Act of
as penance for kissing Sara Lyons in the backyard while her parents watched
But there was the annual church bazaar where my father, so often angry,
ran a ping-pong shooting booth looking foolishly kind in a torn felt hat.
And in eleventh grade Father Hickey called our house—my mother answering
the old black rotary telephone—to ask if I’d come out of altar-boy-retirement
to serve Sacred Heart’s centennial celebration. There was the red cardigan
my mother bought, her hair done proudly, and me ringing the chimes
one final time as Father Hickey raised the Holy Eucharist.
I miss the familiarity of the uncomfortable wooden pews, Father Kearns’
which oversimplified all human behavior to right and wrong.
I miss the certainty of my unquestioned belief in the Trinity.
And when my mother was dying, I miss Father Hickey—whom I had not seen
in fifteen years, his back now hunched with age—driving to my parents’
There was the dignity of my mother’s Last Rites. How we formed a circle
                around her,
my father’s cheeks red with grief, as Father Hickey recited the 23rd Psalm.
I miss holding my mother’s still-living hand those minutes before her
                lungs stopped,
that long hour we waited for the undertaker as her forehead cooled,
and how in the empty silence beside my mother’s body I allowed myself—
once again—to repeat every useless prayer she had taught me as a boy.
Steven Coughlin: “If my twenties were somewhat clouded by a resentment toward the Catholic church, my thirties have been colored by a strong longing for the lost rituals of my youth.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Few Poems by Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell is without a doubt one of America's (and the world's!) greatest poets. Here are a few selections:

Two selections from a poem by Galway Kinnell, writing about his mother in  "The Last Hiding Place of Snow":

Once in a while, passing the place,
I have imagined I heard
my old mother calling, thinking out loud her
mother-love toward me, over those many miles
from where her bones lie,
five years
in earth now, with my father's thirty-years' bones.

I have always felt
anointed by her love, its light
like sunlight
falling through broken panes
onto the floor
of a deserted house: we may go, it remains,
telling of goodness of being, of permanence.

So lighted I have believed
I could wander anywhere,
among any foulness, any contagions,
I could climb through the entire empty world
and find my way back and learn to be happy.

[later in the same poem]:

Even now when I wake at night
in some room far from everyone,
the darkness sometimes
lightens a little, and then,
because of nothing,
in spite of nothing,
in an imaginary daybreak, I see her,
and for that moment I am still her son
and I am in the holy land
and twice in the holy land, remembered
within her, and remembered in the memory

her old body slowly executes into the earth.

After Making Love We Hear Footsteps

For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run - as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears - in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small
he has to screw them on, which one day may make him wonder
about the mental capacity of baseball players -
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other
and smile
and touch arms across his little, startling muscled body -
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

The Still Time

by Galway Kinnell

I know there is still time -
time for the hands
to open, for the bones of them
to be filled
by those failed harvests of want,
the bread imagined of the days of not having.

Now that the fear
has been rummaged down to its husk,
and the wind blowing
the flesh away translates itself
into flesh and the flesh
gives itself in its reveries to the wind.

I remember those summer nights
when I was young and empty,
when I lay through the darkness
wanting, wanting,
I would have nothing if anything I wanted -
that total craving
that hollows the heart out irreversibly.

So it surprises me now to hear
the steps of my life following me -
so much of it gone
it returns, everything that drove me crazy
comes back, blessing the misery
of each step it took me into the world;
as though a prayer had ended
and the bit of changed air
between the palms goes free
to become the glitter
on some common thing that inexplicably shines.

And the old voice,
which once made its broken-off, choked, parrot-incoherences,
speaks again,
this time on the palatum cordis
this time saying there is time, still time,
for one who can groan
to sing,
for one who can sing to be healed.

                               by Galway Kinnell

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours.  Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands.  And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don't go too early.
You're tired. But everyone's tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Homeless and Hungry in America: A Meditation for Lent; Remembering Chuck Matthei

As part of the Karpos Ministry at St. Mary's Church in Painesville, Ohio, we try to feed the hungry and homeless. This winter we have offered many homeless people emergency shelter when the temperatures were bitterly cold. And if someone needs a coat, hat, gloves, or socks, we provide for them. We do not have huge funding; no paid employees; no big organization. What we do have is faithful and dedicated volunteers and the support of our church and our pastor. Some of our volunteers are Catholics, members of St. Mary's parish; many are of different faiths. All passionately believe in living and fostering the corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy.

Today in the mail I received The Catholic Worker newspaper--the one published by the Catholic Workers on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The March-April 2014 issue has a beautiful woodcut with the words of the Moroccan poet, Abdellatif Laabi:

"In these days of abstinence, it was a source of pride to me to be hungry and to disturb a little the shameful peace of those who starve our people."

A thought-provoking remark in the season of Lent. Who is it that allows, even fosters, the great hunger and homelessness we see in Painesville and throughout our country?

Abdellatif Laabi's remark makes me think of Chuck Matthei (1948-2002), the great Peacemaker, who once told me that he fasted every Friday in solidarity with the hungry of the world. Chuck was a kind of saint. He felt he was called to such extraordinary action. We are probably not called to that. But we all are called to the task of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless--and trying to cure our society of these problems.

Here is a site with a short bio of Chuck and some photos: Remembering Chuck Matthei.

My old friend Wendy Rawlins Tuck is currently researching and writing a biography of Chuck.

Chuck Matthei

A Blast from the Past--Arlo Guthrie Singing "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You"

Today an old Peacemaker friend, Steve Tuck, posted a video of Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger singing "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You," a song Elvis Presley recorded in 1961. I prefer the sweet version recorded by the "We Five" around 1965.

It's just a pop song, but it is sweet and beautiful and evokes memories--that's for sure!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Birds and Skunk Cabbage Think It's Spring at Holden Arboretum!

This morning I took a brief walk at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio. The birds were singing up a storm. They think it's spring and not late-late winter! Love is in the air at Holden--it's mating season. Thrusting up through near-frozen earth, amid patches of snow, is the skunk cabbage. This homely, smelly plant should be the symbol of Northern Ohio--we are tough! We will not be defeated. We will bring in the spring!

Here are three pictures from this morning's walk--two of skunk cabbage; one of snowdrops.

Skunk Cabbage melting its way through the snow

Not pretty, but powerful--a force of nature, a victory!

Now these snowdrops are pretty!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Maple Syrup Season in Chardon and Geauga County

One of the surest signs of early spring around here--the sap buckets hanging from the sugar maple trees on Chardon Square. We like to think of ourselves as the maple capital of Ohio and are very proud of our maple syrup (and candy, sugar, etc). Here are a few photos taken this morning on the Square.

Gazebo and Courthouse in the background

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Haiku in Three Languages (English, Irish, German)

Dream Haiku in Three Languages (English, Irish, German)

early morning haiku

hand draped over my breast--
peace, contentment in my bones

sleep sweet this morning

Aisling Mhilis (Haiku in Irish)

do lámh ar mo bhrollach,
sonas i mo chnámha--

            codail go socair ar maidin

In der Frueh (Haiku)

dein Hand auf meinem Brust
Zufreiden tief in Beinen--

Schlaf suess im stillen Frueh

Spring Poem Set at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio

Blood Root
--at Holden Arboretum, Kirtland, Ohio

in the spring rain,
amid the bluebells,
skunk cabbage, marsh marigold,
                                        blood root—

we break pita bread,
            understanding communion,
toast red wine,
watching geese gather on Blueberry Pond

I blurt out clumsy
            words of love

you give me a talisman

simple gift of
egg-shaped stone
made smooth
by the lake

flakes or rock flicker in the light,
crystals of ruby,
            of garnet,
surely of magic—

we are being wooed
            by life

bound by blood
            from root to crown

in the spring rain
            at Holden

            as everything


[Bob Coughlin, circa 1991]

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Couple of poems anticipating April

Early April Hallelujah Chorus

The spring peepers singing their hearts out last night
Right outside my window, in the wetlands, near the creek,

Chirping their love
Seeking out their Romeos and Juliets

Reckless frog lovers
One green inch of high C

Chanting to the drumbeat
Pulsing in their peeper souls

The hum in the blood,
The need for a mate

Louder than the call for food or sleep
Or anything else --

Not so different from
Human peepers of spring!
 [Robert M. Coughlin April 2002]

Midnight at Blue River
--for LRS, Floyd County, Kentucky

New moon late march night
a trillion stars
above Blue River dance

to tune of spring peepers,
hoot owls, hounds
chasing through the hills—

Our eyes perceive light
older than dinosaurs
traveling across millennia.

This ancient light encounters us,
blesses the long journey.

We walk quiet, serene,
hand-in-hand in the dark

                are suddenly
grateful for our little
lives for our little
light and love.

May it pour across
time and space

touch another
                                  [Bob Coughlin]

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]