A Poem Regarding Cultural Identity
by Sean Flynn
There must have raced an hour in my infanthood
When my mother’s blanket warmed and mesmerized me
With textiles mythological, distinct and insular
But supine to the Americanised television set
I adopted a new star-spangled coat which
Enwrapped me in illusory eagle feathers
New merchandise, it seemed to me, indivisible from my
That if I was not a gold and silver American
I was nothing.
That if my tongue did not unloose the earth of accent,
I was nothing.
I turned 14. A cinema-goer of popcorn movies.
RTÉ was crap. We all agreed.
My coat of feathers remained undimmed in splendour.
I turned 16. Normalised to the abnormal. iPhone screens filled my eyes
My coat of feathers looked tatty and full of holes.
I turned 18. I wondered what I was to be. With irrelevant chatter of media and things unreal
How I had wasted my years!
My coat of feathers was unrenewable.
Year by year the plume would shed
Painful transition, yet
The skeletal boy wrought with cold made no whimper
In my fitful life I had never asked to see the Blarney Stone
Nor the chalk and iron of the Celts
Always shown but never interested.
I looked to the marginalised ‘culchies’
With their hot, ravaged faces after years of Guinness;
I looked to D4 and their adopted
Wispy rumpled hair and ‘proper schooling’;
I looked to RTÉ and found Ryan Tubridy.
The suit. The brown-leather seats.
And all I could think of was David Letterman.
Rising, rising, ever rising,
The Eagle’s shadow
Over what is
The Emerald Isle.
Chalk and iron; brick over brick;
Paved over the great green globe.
To look on a Saharan scene of deserts and vastness
And have the Egyptian say ‘I am of here’ completes the tableau.
What is it to say ‘I am of here’
In front of the leafy pavements, the coffee centres, the book franchises
The facsimile, the carbon copy?
It was the source of all my strife
My years of asking questions
My years of self-reflection
Of favouring friends against ones considered lesser,
Somehow ‘unlevelled’ to him
All his feelings of supremacy, the breaker of many hearts
All his vows of entitlement and self-righteousness that put his father in a state of disrepair
And it had been under the soil, incompressible, in this environment all along
It had been in the twang-musicality of the accent
The innovative, unpretentious artisans
The homespun wool section
The farmer’s markets
The lovely mothers and vulgar fathers
In the fluidity of the landscape and all the living things
Transcending both essence and substance
Transcending inert, empty words
In the same breath and feeling, the same moment when he cast off his smothering coat of
It brought that boy to tears; a native of Ireland,
Asking the concrete who he was
Free as (anything but!) an Eagle
To choose, and reconcile with his mother’s wool.