'A Nation Once Again'


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This poem appears in my book What Is the City? (2006), which is out of print but usually available in used condition on internet sites. Jackie Brady was a champion boxer in Lowell, Mass., in the 1960s. The local scene from the 1980s predates the easing of tensions, even the prospect for peace, resulting from the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 to end the brutal “Troubles” (more than 3,500 deaths) and the related British-Irish Agreement a year later. As a measure of how charged the peace process continues to be, the issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland of the UK is a key to resolving the Brexit situation in the UK. The Republic is part of the European Union, and today there is an “invisible border” between the south and north. Should Brexit be realized, it is likely that the border would not be as open as it is now.


A Nation Once Again

Brady’s Irish pub at the Spaghettiville train bridge gathers a lunch crowd of American-Irish from Sacred Heart and the late St. Peter’s parish. The slow dark pint, a cold Harp, beans & franks and burgers with the best hand-cut fries, sprinkled with vinegar. Chunky soup and chowders, sausages on seeded buns, fat lobster rolls. The jukebox spills out crooners, gangsta rap, Hibernian chestnuts. On the four walls, glossies of Brady’s bouts, Victorian-Lowell streetscapes, map of the Isle, and the electronic paint of TV.

“Who tripped Bobby Orr when he scored his Cup-winning goal in ‘70?”

“Barclay Plager of the Blues?”

“Noel Picard.”

“The Fabulous Moolah?”

“Who’s that?”

“Who’s got what horse?”

“Are you going to the Derby this year?”

“Did you see the Bruins Friday night? Ray Bourque’s got a stiff hip.”

Martha, Colleen, and Sue, friendly as your favorite aunts, drive the kitchen operation. It’s Irish Culture Week with Masses, Mary’s soda bread, a tour of St. Pat’s Cemetery, the flag-raising and Gaelic anthem on the City Hall steps, ceili at the Elks, and Variety Show.

The center-table group will converge at Our Lady of Good Voyage in Boston on Easter Sunday to praise old martyrs and young hunger-strikers, the Four and the Eight, all jailed by and for politics. Outside, the faithful buy medals, buttons, and cards. Our day is near, they say, and, as he does each year, Liam Murphy, who claims he scrapped as a boy in the 1916 rising, will turn around in his front pew, making a finger-gun: bang, bang.

1987

Jackie Brady, 1964 Greater Lowell Golden Glove 112 lb. Novice Champion; 1964 112 lb. New England AAU Champion. (photo and data courtesy boxrec.com)

Jackie Brady, 1964 Greater Lowell Golden Glove 112 lb. Novice Champion; 1964 112 lb. New England AAU Champion. (photo and data courtesy boxrec.com)