Giftshop in the Clouds: Poems Inspired by Travel

Giftshop in the Clouds

I want to say I dragged my girlfriend out of bed. It sounds dramatic and a good opening line, but I didn’t. I just woke her up earlier than she would have liked. I was dressed already and had laid out the day’s clothes on the cheap hotel room chair the night before. — I did the same in primary school, before yearly class trips to Clonmacnoise, but I would lay out my outfit on the floor; shoes, below shorts, below striped polo and all above socks and jocks, leaving it there overnight like the leavings of some raptured Beano comics character. — She took a while to get ready, longer than I would have liked and I wish I could say that I wasn’t such an ass about time, but I am. — I get it from my dad, he liked being early to things and I liked being early with him. We’d get to talk in the car for the ten or fifteen minutes before a piano exam or a French grind. I’m only thinking now how obvious it is that my obsession with time stems from a man with so little left. I’m never rude about it though, I think I just tried to sit patiently and beat back the anxieties of missing a bus that runs every ten minutes.

We were on holiday, I forgot to say. — When I was six I used to think the point of holidays were to relax but since growing up and figuring out that I may only get to see every place once, I’ve become fairly obsessed about getting something out of my trip. —– After she was dressed, we waked out and our lungs cracked in Alpine air. We didn’t miss the bus. We realized pretty quickly we didn’t need it anyhow, our destination was the next stop —– an immense gothic church, one façade a model of medieval architecture and the other blacked-out by wartime bombing. I paid the six euro for us to visit the top.

  I assume the reason we don’t see monks anymore is because they all fell down these kinds of stairs. This tower was immense, tight, completely missing a railing and the steps were so worn the stone looked like leather upholstery. Reaching the top and breathless, I opened the door expecting an open view of the city. It was a giftshop. —– I paused for a minute and half remembered a story about Jesus throwing the merchants out of the synagogue, I assume he wouldn’t have cared if they were selling statues of himself.  An aged Austrian woman was watching my blank stare – She smiled and I like to think she took my confusion as a moment of pious self-reflection, and that it never fails to surprise her how every time a foreigner walks through her door to this giftshop in the clouds they all have the same look on their face, how awe inspiring a giftshop it was. I took a picture of the city, through a pane of glass. Donated a euro to renovate the damaged walls and we made our way back to the bus stop. The path down scarier than the climb up.

The Back of an Inishbofin Postcard 

If only you knew, how much it amused me

To look at this world of dazzling beauty

And watch it falter and fail

To live up to your own.

St John’s Wood

Tired flies list like dust over the baked gravel path

And beyond this line, either left or right, is unkempt bracken.

Dappled like leopard skin in green shadows where no naked bark or

Bare rock is left without a coat of marbled moss. The foreign daffodil

Bows a mourning head covered in a withered veil, and fiddlehead ferns

Break the sea like the inquisitive arms of the kraken

Reaching up to the thin wiry cage of hazels and elms above

That lean on each other’s shoulders, whispering secrets in birdsong

That the straight spears of ash cannot hear. The pallid shades

Of butterflies haunt my path, coaxing my eyes deep out of sight

While the flies fertilize the dandelions.

And the wind is nothing here

Lost in vegetation,

It won’t hold me back or push me forward or guide my hand.

So, We’re alone now with the air,

Smelling of bluebells and your tobacco.

Stealing a cutting of holly, you tell me this is the only stretch of Irish wood

That never knew the Englishman’s axe and I know if I were to touch a single leaf

I’d be absorbed, coated with gorse

Beneath the sky.

      

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