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

With wonder.

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 alienation

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.