The Auld Fella’s Pre-Birthday Dinner

Leah Keane
It started with a call at one in the afternoon
during the rugby (Ireland v Scotland)
on a Saturday (three days before his birthday).
It’s never good when he calls this early.
Stoic red letters warn of an incoming.
Still, I answer the phone.
Immediately I know
from his shaky joviality
that later we’ll be having a dinner
full of teeth grinding.
I’ve always marvelled at his ability
to say the same things differently.
There are only so many ways
I can say I’m fine 
before it becomes untrue.
I eventually hang up
with an exasperated see you later.
I look to my brother on the couch
(he’d come back from London especially).
What did he want? he asks.
I don’t know.
Scotland score a try.
But it sounds like he’s had a few.
His chest rises quickly then retreats.
A click of the tongue, shake of the head.
Pure disgust.
The one fuckin’ day I ask him to stay out of the pub
and he can’t even do that for me.
He goes outside for a cigarette.
We pick him up at five. He sits in the front with Dan.
I’m directly behind him, Aaron’s beside me.
We’re a few minutes out the road when he enquires
Where’s her ladyship this evening?
Who? Dan asks.
My brother shakes his head. He’s got that look from before.
She’s sitting right behind you, ya prick
and continues driving.
The Auld Fella laughs
and reaches a hand behind in greeting.
I recoil so sharply it shocks me.
At the restaurant he analyses a painting of four cows.
It’s in black and white but he can still make out
they’re Hereford Crosses with Angus heads on them. 
The middle one was dehorned at an early age.
Another had slipped a calf.
It’s grand for a while.
He orders a 228 steak. The most expensive thing on the menu.
Takes one bite then looks at the floor.
He can’t eat it because he had something earlier.
Couldn’t you have just waited a few hours? I ask.
He could, but that’s an unfair verb.
His chest jumps. It looks as though he might throw up
but I can’t find sympathy for him in this moment.
We drive him home. 
He asks if we’d like to stay for a while. 
None of us do.
Page 46, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124
Issue 124

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124:

Edited by Eavan Boland

Poetry Ireland Review 124 contains new poems from Paula Meehan, Ciarán O'Rourke, Lizzy Nichols, Mark Ward, Gabriel Rosenstock, Özgecan Kesici, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and many other compelling voices. Also included is Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin's remembrance of her Cork childhood, excerpted from The Vibrant House: Irish Writing and Domestic Space, a book of essays reviewed in issue 124 by Caitríona O'Reilly. Other books considered in this issue include collections from Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Mark Granier, Tara Bergin, The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets, and the Collected Poems of the late Dennis O'Driscoll, and there's also a short interview with Thomas Kinsella along with an essay on Kinsella as poet and civil servant. Another Kinsella is this issue’s Featured Poet, Alice Kinsella, and all artwork for the issue is supplied by artists associated with the Olivier Cornet Gallery on Great Denmark Street, around the corner from Poetry Ireland.

Available now to purchase online or in all good bookstores.