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numberfour //
Far-away places

Robert Service

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon
The kid that handles the music box was playing a rag-time tune
Back of the bar in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew
And watching his luck was his light-o-love, the lady thats known as Lou.

When out of the night, it was fifty below, and into the din and the glare
There stumbled a miner fresh up from the creeks dog-dirty and loaded for bear
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted his poke of dust on the bar and called for drinks on the house

There was none could place the strangers face, though we searched ourselves for a clue
But we drank his health and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew
Theres men who somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them in a spell
Well such was he, though he looked to me, like a man who had lived in hell

With the face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done
He watered the green stuff in his glass and the drops fell one by one
Then I got to figuring who he was and wondering what hed do
As I turned my head there watching him was the lady whos known as Lou

His eyes went rubbering around the room and he seemed in a kind of a daze
Till at last the old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze
The rag-time kid was having a drink so there was no one else on the stool
So the stranger stumpled across the room and flopped down like a fool

In his buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt, he sat and I saw him sway
He clutched the keys in his talon hands my God but that man could play
Have you ever been out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear

With only the howl of a timber wolf as you camped there in the cold
A half-dead thing in that stark dead world clean mad for that muck called gold
While high overhead, green yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars
Then youve a hunch what the music meant the hunger the night and the stars

And hunger not of the belly kind, thats banished with bacon and beans,
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all it means
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above
And oh so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a womans love

A woman dearer than the world and true as the Heaven is true
God how gastly she looks through her rouge the lady whos known as Lou
Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear

That someone had stolen the woman you loved, that her love was a devils lie
That your guts were gone and the best for you was to crawl away and die
Twas a crowning cry of a hearts despair, and it thrilled you through and through
I guess Ill make it a spread misere, said Dangerous Dan McGrew

The music almost died away then it burst like a pent-up flood
And it seemed to say repay repay and my eyes were blind with blood
And the thought came back of an ancient wrong and it stung like a frozen lash
And the lust awoke to kill, to kill then the music stopped with a crash,

And the stranger turned and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way
In his buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt, he sat and I saw him sway
Then his lips they went in a kind of a grin, and he spoke and his voice was calm
And Boys says he, you dont know me, and none of you care a damn.
But I want to state, and my words are straight, and Ill bet my poke theyre true
That one of you is a hound of hell and that one is Dan McGrew.

Then I ducked my head and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark
And a woman screamed and the lights went on and two men lay stiff and stark
Pitched on his head and pumped full of lead was Dangerous Dan McGrew
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady whos known as Lou

These are the simple facts of the case and I guess I ought to know
They say that the stranger was crazed with hooch and Im not denying its so
Im not so wise as those lawyer guys, but strictly between us two
The lady who kissed and pinched his poke was the lady whos known as Lou



Uncle Eddy


A real horse of a man McTaggart, called him nineteen hands high,

With shoulders like a barn door, townlands champion, miser and horse doctor.

Focus of all the neighborhood shallow gossip

Uncle Eddie strode Bruchas rushy acres

Alone for eighty years to outlive them all.


Unschooled and illiterate, a product of lean times

He bought his first suit with rabbits snared on the loch shore

He could guide a team of Clydales at twelve, at fifteen a man.


Rebuffed; a sullen parish admired his feats from a safe distance

Fearing the hard honesty, the cold stare.

As when he mowed all night in the wet meadow,

Lifted a trap across his bare shoulders, broke stallions

Or drove a herd of bullocks to the Moy fair, alone.


Well able for pestering clergy, friendless and womanless all his life

He christened the great bays, Tom and Ned.

Laid out two policemen at Finigans republican funeral McTaggart marveled.

Finally as lawyers and priests came to count his money,

And the whole parish waited triumphantly for his final feat,

He chased doctors and priests from his death bed,

Wanting only that the workman bring the horses to the window, so that he could see them. 

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When I Worked for Board na Mona




James Bredin



I worked for Board na Mona when I was fifteen,

Lied about my age; I was supposed to be sixteen,

We moved in front of a turf collector machine,

Much more sweat and turf dust that I had ever seen.


We worked by day and night where lights lit up the bog,

Especially near morning in cold or heat and fog,

Numbing mindless work amid the roar of machine,

Introduction to the real world when I was fifteen.


Foreman decided to speed up the operation,

Move faster on the bog increased noise and vibration,

I had been taught that Irishmen were always fair,

A prologue to another reality nightmare.


And when we couldn't take it any more and slowed down,

He looked like he broke a blood vessel with a frown,

He fired us all on the spot and suddenly no job,

Fifty Irishmen trudging slowly along the bog.


Tuesday, January 27, 2004


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