This is as good a place as any to start the story: thirty thousand feet over Atlanta and about to begin our descent to Hartsfield-Jackson. My legs are griping from five hours tucked under the seat and I’m too bored to spit.
What do I expect from this trip? I’d like nothing more than to rove the wild Irish countryside. But this is a tour and our itinerary is fixed. We’ll be traveling with relations, twenty some odd first and second cousins. Each with something different on his or her mind. The only hope for survival is to be flexible.
Still, deep in my bones I sense this is a pilgrimage. A quest for something other.
The flight attendants are collecting litter now. This is the most amusement I’ve had in the past hour and a half.
I pick up the inflight earphones, each the size of an Oreo cookie and clip them to my ears. Delta radio is featuring a terrible hip-hop groove on channel nine, an over-exhuberant performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 on channel ten. Channel eleven is inhabited by a woman with a woody Gaelic lilt to her voice. She says something about Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh and segues into a familiar Irish melody:
On Raglan Road of an Autumn day
I saw her first and knew,
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might someday rue.
I saw the danger and I passed
Along the enchanted way.
And I said,”Let grief be a fallen leaf
At the dawning of the day.”
On Grafton Street in November, we
Tripped lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine where can be seen
The worth of passion play.
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts
And I not making hay;
Oh, I loved too much and by such and such
Is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind,
I gave her the secret signs,
That’s known to the artists who have known
The true gods of sound and stone.
And her words and tint without stint
I gave her poems to say
With her own name there and her own dark hair
Like clouds over fields of May.
On a quiet street where old ghosts meet
I see her walking now,
And away from me so hurriedly
My reason must allow.
That I had loved, not as I should
A creature made of clay,
When the angel woos the clay, he’ll lose
His wings at the dawn of day.
Photo: Shannon Estuary; Raglan Road courtesy of Cantaria