Saturday, February 7, 2009


#38, Herbert Street, Dublin

I love Dublin. I really do. It's the only place in the world you can pop into a hospital for a routine research look-about and find yourself a half an hour later in the lobby still chatting with the security guard. This is the man who, when he learned you were a writer researching a novel, promptly went into a locker behind the security desk and took down a battered yellow envelope of poetry. The poems were written by Patrick Nugent, another guard who'd worked on the premises ("Disappeared 4 months ago without a trace. Oh, you would've loved to have talked to him. He'd have talked to you for hours.") and insisted you take home a stapled copy of Patrick's poem "The Tooth Fairy" with the memorable last stanza (Again, for context: Abras = Abrekebabra's = regrettable fast food joint often frequented late at night and against one's best judgment.):

Now patrons of old Abras
Do not listen to any crap
Don't wear your false teeth while eating
Especially after buying a bap.

Henry Hughes, the security guard who insisted I take the poem, was a truly friendly fellow: in his fifties, maybe, fit and energetic, and full of stories. The best of them concerned his run-ins with the great writer and notoriously boozing Brendan Behan. Henry knew all the Behans and reminisced of the fifties and sixties when Brendan roamed the pubs of Baggot Street, often stopping, Henry said, to relieve himself alongside a house just across the street from the hospital. "Do you see that fence over there?" he asked, taking me outside and pointing to a rickety old wooden barrier. "They had it built after Brendan would come by one too many times to use it as a toilet." Apparently the roving Brendan had kicked it in once or twice as well, though the fence still stands near the intersection of Baggot Street and Herbert Street. Had Behan saw fit to amble a few meters in the other direction, he might have looked up to the heavens and seen this 38.

Most curiously, Henry also claimed to be in possession of the only copy of an unpublished poem by Brendan Behan called "The Dregs of the Unemployed" (with a line, he recalls, about "the biddies in furs on Grafton Street") though this, unfortunately, was not included in the collection of poems kept behind the desk in the old coat locker. I longed to know more about the lost Behan poem and asked if I might get a glimpse, but the gregarious security guard remained a bit cagey and secretive on this count. One wonders -- Henry was nowhere to be found the last time I ducked in -- if the secret will remain guarded forever.


Jackie said...

I wish all poetry could be pulled out of yellow envelopes like that or else found on bits of old napkins or something. Poetry loses something for me when it's typed out neatly in published books. How Bohemian of me, I know.

dhytop (a table setting prepared especially for nuns on high holy days.)

Therese Cox said...

Jackie, I know what you mean. There's something about the stuff that's scribbled on napkins and envelopes and scraps that appeals to me, too. Frank O'Hara, whose poetry I love, wrote almost exclusively this way: in scraps on breaks from his job at the Met.

And trust me, when a security guard reaches up to the top shelf of a locker, the LAST thing you're expecting him to take down is an envelope of poetry.

Julie said...

Security guards rank up there with Mrs-have-a-chat.