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Stout poetry

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This poem is reproduced by kind permission of Terence Browne

Mulligans of Poolbeg Street by Terence Browne


Reels of film flying over a dusty lens

the hot bulb the whine

fast images of conspiring men

from McCairns Motors

rolling in a silent quick-step

smiling at the camera in nineteen fifty

their soft hats cocked to show a light approach

over to Mulligan’s golden facade

flickering briefly on the silver screen

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This honeyed portal is unique

the two swing doors their friendly squeak

combed in an exaggerated yellow grain

one to a wholesome saloon

the other to a side-bar

an altar to the deity of heavenly drink


It is a cathedral made for a working congregation

it took centuries to construct

this extravagant faith

medieval men’s ambitions

drawn in the smoky air

the neat stack of Afton

the simple chair


There are two back-rooms

one a spacious area filled with a modest light

big broad tables from the kitchens of the kings

the walls shining with pipe-smoker’s paint

a place to drink pints of Guinness

without any time constraint


The other back-room is a place for bishops should they come

their own waiting inner sanctum

its stained-glass doors are locked

some people must have been ordained in there

the table set for a meeting of some hierarchy


The men from the Irish Press

grey in Fred McMurray dress

for years these oily men from printer’s ink

set a discreet tone with knowing nod and willing wink

talking to each other sideways

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The window seats in the main bar

are light-filled alcoves made for the high art of intimate talk

the sun that finds its way down into the narrow street

is magnified by the pearly glass

warming the back of the neck

like a magic scarf


Two pints of stout

snug into the half-keg with a companion

a holy communion

served by men in aprons the size of horses

they rub the counter-top with a grey wet rag

sweeps of temporary varnish

preparing the dry altar

Tommy McDonald, from County Cavan, chats to two customers. Bord Failte, circa 1960s
Tommy McDonald, from County Cavan, chats to two customers. Bord Failte, circa 1960s

Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street

a pro-cathedral for the working man

where generations of altar-boys have learned how to drink porter

to respect a home from home

where prayers and promises are offered to the gods

where decent sinners can extol

dressed protected in the very place itself

a golden navvy-jacket for the soul.