Roethke takes the boat to Ballinasloe

by Elaine Feeney

wet fingernails
floated on his thick spun hands

mouth corners like
dried cheese curds

as he clasped the wooden side
of the six-thirty

heaving on the waves
from Bofin to Ballinasloe

hands that held
the black and white

collar of pints sunk
in Gullane’s

to sink the sight of the priest
who banished his Fear

he thinks of evenings out
before lockdown

and a male orderly
from town

tapping his beer mat
to the counter

for attention

the poet only heard
old sounds:

a tinker tethering his mare
as the horse fair clattered

ah sure indeed Teddy
your head will be well

when the turf is stacked in the shed
and we’ve stopped your sweating

Read Elaine Feeney’s ‘Behind the poem’ article on this poem