Crossing the Liffey at Midnight

The river was black,
smelled like Guinness
and excrement.

I looked for signs
of Bloom out walking,
a widening gyre

in the starless sky.
What I saw was three kids
with metal pipes

blocking my way.
They smoked like old
men, one pointing

at my knee.
I understood the quick
break I’d feel if

I tried to walk through
them to the far side
of the bridge.

I gave them a bank note,
some change, and they
walked away

like urchins
from a Dickens novel,
not Irish pages.

I walked along
for hours down narrow
streets, past houses

so poor no American
would call them home
or have to.

At sunrise, I stood
by the river, the fishmongers
shouting their prices.

And soon, a singer played
guitar in a mews, sang
drinking ballads,

but Dylan songs, too.
I gave up on finding
a writer who could

catch it all in a wide
net of words.
I was glad my knee

wasn’t broken,
that the Liffey flowed
beneath the ancient

bridges. Gulls dove
the slow, dark water,
dove it again.

William Miller is a widely-published poet and children’s author. His poems have appeared in many journals, including Prairie Schooner, West Branch and Verse. He lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

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2 Responses to Crossing the Liffey at Midnight

  1. Ted Jean says:

    William, I have seen your poems elsewhere, and admired them. Wasn’t there one about Robert Lowell dying in a taxi cab? Intimidating, so good. This one, too, with its analogs of river, and risk, and youth vs. old age … a thoughtful read.

  2. William Miller says:

    Thanks so much Ted for the insightful comment. “Robert Lowell in the Taxicab” is forthcoming in my sixth collection, Recovering Biker, due out this fall 2017 from The Edwin Mellen Press.

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