Poguemahone

By Patrick McCabe

The groundbreaking new novel from one of modern Ireland's greatest writers

POGUEMAHONE

 

 

                                             But, anyway,

                                             where was I

                                             yes, the pub up in London

                                             The Bedford Arms

                                             wasn’t I telling you

                                             where, to my surprise,

                                             on my recent journey

                                             up Killiburn way

                                             instead of Paddy Conway

                                             who did I discover

                                             standing there in behind

                                             the counter

                                             only this brand-new Nigerian barman

                                             who you wouldn’t have

                                             expected, in a million years.

                                             to know the slightest little bit

                                             about

                                             cluricauns or

                                             leprechauns

                                             or anything to do

                                             with the old tales and stories

                                             of Currabawn,

                                             or, for that matter, Ireland-

                                             but, as I was soon to discover,

                                             in fact, there was very little

                                             that he didn’t know

                                             about the subject

                                             everything, indeed,

                                             to do with them

                                             making these precise little sketches

                                             on a beermat with the sharpened point

                                             of a pencil

                                             as the pair of us

                                             sat there

                                             chatting away

                                            

                                             this is what he looks

                                             like, he said,

                                             what would be

                                             our equivalent in Nigeria.

                                             ‘There are those who would insist

                                             Mr Exu is the devil’, he told me,

                                             ‘but that is not true, because mostly

                                             he is a person like us. You will

                                             see, for example, that he does not have

                                             horns.

                                             Indeed his principal symbol, his

                                             one essential and necessary attribute

                                             being the erect phallus

                                             which is, of course, the sign of life

                                             & constant vitality

                                             that makes Exu the embodiment of

                                             energy, of axe.’

 

 

                                             With him sliding the

                                             drawing across the counter

                                             as he gave me a smile

                                             & I had to laugh

                                             when I saw this

                                             particular detail that he’d

                                             pencilled in

                                             namely a great big loorpan of

                                             an extended, anglewise prick

                                             which looked so funny

                                             set against the tall grinning

                                             figure’s flaring swallowtail

                                             coat.

                                            

                                             Yes, Mr Exu!, he laughed,

                                             that’s what they call

                                             him in the little village I come from

                                             in Africa

                                             in the place where I was born,

                                             that devious mythical trickster,

                                             poet of melancholy,

                                             weird user of words

                                             watching them tumble wild in his head

                                             as they take his fancy,

                                             one minute there smiling

                                             without so much as a care

                                             in the world

                                             & then the next thing you know

                                             the world framed in the living

                                             pearl of his eye

                                             where you see yourself standing

                                             looking back out at yourself

                                             for he brings them free as any

                                             bird of the air

                                             every single story as ever there was

                                             slipping with ease across

                                             the frontiers of language

                                             whether blackbird

                                             or robin

                                             perhaps even creatures that cannot be named

                                             or seen

                                             he is the one

                                             who comes for us when its time

                                             whether it be the thirties

                                             or the forties

                                             or the seventies

                                             the one that in your culture

                                             you tell me is called

                                             the gruagach.

                                            

                                            

                                            

                                             No, you genuinely

                                             wouldn’t have expected

                                             a twenty-four year old African barman

                                             to know the first thing about

                                             any of that

                                             all that ancient old folklore stuff

                                             the very same

                                             as Auntie Nano used to love

                                             to tell us all about

                                             when we were small

                                             the fairy Shee and

                                             the magic of the hawthorn

                                             yes, ghosts and all the rest of

                                             that type of thing.

                                            

                                             But that is exactly what he drew

                                             the one and only Mr Exu.

                                             & who, I have to say,

                                             with that smashing great ponytail

                                             & high-polished white loafers,

                                             really did cut the most handsome

                                             & dashing figure all told,

                                             especially with that neat little

                                             tranca

                                             a twirly wee braid curling elegantly

                                             backward

                                             more commonly found, or so my

                                             Nigerian friend informed me,

                                             in the carved Yoruba images of Eshu.

                                            

                                            

                                             But anyhow, back to London

                                             and the old times and the way

                                             that, in modern days, things

                                             would appear to have gone.

                                             It’s difficult to credit the extent to which

                                             ‘Auld Killiburn’, as they used to call it,

                                             how it has transformed over the years.

                                             With very few of the old-stagers in evidence now

                                             &

                                             the few that are in a sorry-looking state

                                             exhibiting no end of strokes & limps

                                             & the Lord knows what.

                                             But I’m still very glad I took the trouble

                                             to make the trip.

 

 

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