The mean grey streets below were tired.
A few bewildered tourists came,
pretending it was all they’d hoped.
For they’d been told that Lonely Planet
had named this place a destination
no self-respecting European
should ever miss. They’d all done Rome,
meandered through her film-set alleys
and marvelled at her ancient treasures;
they’d braved the teeming Istanbul;
ascended Eiffel Tower and
been guided round old Notre Dame;
they’d stood in Greenwich Park and seen
the Thames in flood below; and some
who knew a thing or two had even
been drawn by Pushkin’s verse to see
the city that he loved and loathed –
the golden spire of Admiralty,
the Neva’s mighty ice floes and
the great one mounted on his horse;
they’d climbed to see the Parthenon,
endured the summer sun and sensed
the ancients’ long-forgotten wisdom;
they’d even been to Dublin, where
they’d noted what had seemed unbridled
disdain for southern upstart town.
And so they’d travelled filled with hope
through verdant pastured Celtic land
to see the city on the Lee;
suppressed their disappointment on
Parade that wasn’t near as Grand
as they’d been told. The English Market
was pretty good – but some had been to
La Boqueria. Though St Fin Barre’s
was all it promised on its hill,
the trip there’d led through dog-turd maze,
and when they’d got there they’d been told
they couldn’t enter without paying.
And so they’d crossed the river then,
walked sodden, mouldering, sullen streets
past houses ruined by pvc
to climb old Shandon’s fabled tower.
It wasn’t high. And halfway up
They’d stopped to pick out ’Derry Air
upon those wretched weary bells.
And at the top, there spread below
was all they’d seen and where they’d been –
the narrow grubby unplanned mess,
the touted city on the Lee.
And somehow, still, they found a way
to love this damp, unlovely town,
for on the parapet a bird
was lying, dead.
poor Cork is ever thus – absurd.