Old man, when you spoke to us in that proper rural pub, where everyone played cards and sat in rickety seats on the lino floor and had tea and sandwiches, when you told us you were 89 and only ever came here for one wee whiskey, I was beginning to think that I was in some TV Oirish drama, or a play written in the 50s. Then you told us of the poetry you used to write while you worked in America, and you started to recite one, at length, in your rolling northwestern burr, rhyming throughout and full of sentimental imagery about dreaming of "the hills of Donegal" and suchlike. And I resented the fact that I was now undoubtedly taking part in a cliché, in some McGahern wannabe's awful short story. But I was also enthralled, despite myself. And when you told us, both teachers, that there was "no education" in your poems we loudly disagreed. And you told us that you burnt your books of poetry after your wife died, and that your sons and your grandchildren don't bother about you but that's alright because that's the way life goes and we struggled to believe you because isolated, abandoned, sad old rural poets only exist in fiction, surely. And you bade us goodnight and Godbless and hobbled out into the dark and we didn't quite know what to say, but we recalled how you had started to recite the same poem again before slowly realising you'd already said it and we reckoned that maybe your memory is just bad and maybe you see your sons more than you let on.
And you stayed in my head and the next night, reading a novel into the small hours as the lake lapped outside my window the author quoted Joseph Brodsky in saying that "If there is any substitute for love it is memory" and I had to leave my book down on my chest for a moment because my eyes hurt.