Poetry

Nathanael O’Reilly

Lodestars

A framed black and white portrait
of my Irish great-great-great-
grandfather hangs on the wall
like an icon in a Russian
church. Trad tunes bind me to ancestors,
lodestars shepherding me back home
after generations in exile,
piloting me across decades
and hemispheres to green fields,
forests, loughs, hills, hedgerows, cliffs,
beaches, islands, villages,
rivers, kitchens and hearths warm
as whiskey, comforting as soda
bread, familiar as the dark
snug in my ancestors’ local.

1992

Woken by my cat at 5am, I let him out
the back door, empty my bladder, slide back into bed
beside my sleeping better half. I lie in the dark
remembering a brilliant year: Saturday night
parties, pub crawls and sleepovers; Sunday morning
pancake breakfasts, nursing hangovers with black coffee;
long walks to the train station; basketball and volleyball
games in the eastern suburbs; winter weekends
in the mountains; sleeping on mates’ floors after drinking
and dancing in Santa Fe and The Metro ‘til dawn;
taking the train into the city with girls to shop
for vintage clothes at Dangerfield; interstate weekend
road trips to concerts where we staked out the front row,
hands grasping the stage shoulder-width apart, girls between
our arms bathed in Rexona, sweat and beer; daytrips
to the beach to surf; midnight games of pool; beer runs
to the bottle shop; lying on floors in the early
hours sharing whispered conversations and body heat;
splitting the price of a tank of petrol; parking
in dark cobblestone lanes; resting legs and shoulders
against each other during quiet rides home; sharing
books and albums with passionate urgings, burning
incense in bedrooms; sneaking out of formal dinners
to act on desire; calling dear friends from payphones
on Sunday evenings to ease loneliness, express
long-repressed feelings, destroy distance; writing essays
and studying for exams until two a.m.;
sitting with gorgeous friends during lectures;
celebrating birthdays in cheap restaurants and pubs;
sleeping on each other’s shoulders in backseats
while cruising down broad suburban highways;
sleeping at friends’ houses after missing last trains;
listening to The World Won’t Listen in the record
library; queuing overnight to buy Pearl Jam
tickets; moshing, singing, dancing, sweating, alive!

Dr. Nathanael O’Reilly is an Irish-Australian poet residing in Texas. His books include Boulevard, (Un)belonging, BLUE, Preparations for Departure, Distance, Suburban Exile and Symptoms of Homesickness. He is poetry editor for Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian/New Zealand Literature.