In the summer of 2002 Emma and I took an isolated house in a small inlet along Bertraghboy Bay between Cashel and Roundstone in Connemara. There was electricity and running water, albeit of a peaty brown, but no mobile phone coverage. Evenings involved cards, glasses of Paddy whisky and long watches through the window as the cormorants dried their wings and seals’ heads broke water. Then, one evening in Boulger’s Bar a rumour spread that U2 were visiting their Cashel bolt-hole just along the shoreline from our house…
ROS RUA: Looking for U2
And word came down from Boulger’s Bar:
Bono, The Edge, those shades, that stetson hat,
buying two bags of groceries from the shop
next door. An Audi TT kicking gravel into
Cashel Bay and heading down the mile
of rocky track towards Ros Rua.
For me behind binoculars, stretched along
the dry-stone wall, the music clinched it.
Wired to the sky like summer smoke,
a melody ascended, needle thin, undefined,
above the low-pitched mossy roof into
the afternoon. (I see them wedged in primitive
splendour: Bono, the Edge on a broken sofa;
Mullen, Clayton, heads together, tracks
mixed onto laptop, a picture window
open to the pale sun, the breathing sea).
Stalked by gulls, mobbed by gorse, I crawled
like a lone commando down where the fields
broke cover over rocks, down where the swallows
stitched the sky to water. Voices crooned
in the telephone wires, a heartbeat away
from the green front door. (Bono, The Edge,
a bottle of Mouton Cadet blanc between them;
Mullen trailing a pensive finger round the rim
of a crystal glass, Clayton watching
the bobbing seals in Bertraghboy Bay).
And then the door swung wide
and the music bloomed like a tin flower:
John McCormack singing The Rose of Tralee.
And a four-square farmer’s wife came stepping
high over the tussocks, scarved and booted,
ringing a bucket like a broken bell.
And she’s singing too, singing in a wild
soprano, keen as the edge of a spinning
slate, plaiting her voice around McCormack’s
skinny tenor, scattering the gulls and lifting
a fishing heron out of the shallows
and into the all-accommodating sky.
From ANCIENT LIGHTS.