Two poems by Jim Burke

At the Cuirt Poetry Festival

Billy Collins stands
meeting a line of fans

who file slowly past
with a sackful of questions.

He is taking his time,
courteous, as if he’s got

a constant supply
hidden somewhere

beneath his pullover,
or down inside his pockets.

He is so relaxed, it’s like he’s
seated in a chair in the Oyster Bar

Restaurant, at Grand Central Station
observing the afternoon rush-hour

as he runs a silver spoon
in a bowl of sea-food chowder.

So pleasing when he moves
the spoon from his lips

and my daughter listens
to his polite reply for what

she should do on her maiden trip
to New York city.

I didn't get where I am

(for M. Riordan.)

I didn’t get where I am by complaining about bumpy
soccer pitches
or the shortcomings of amateur referees.
Or by blaming the inclemencies of the weather.
Or by voting for Labour.
Or by saying he’s a nicer fellow than most, always good to see him.
Nor did I get where I am with the girl in a miniskirt
reading the Bible outside my window.
I didn’t get where I am with all the love I had which was not enough.
Nor did I get where I am by sinking the winning putt in the U.S. Open.
Or by using the comb-over.
Or because I picked six random numbers one Saturday night.
Or by talking to Van Morrison.
Nor did I get where I am whispering to the Virgin Mary.
Or because I went out into the hazel wood.
Or because I ate strawberries with cream watching Wimbledon.
Or because it was difficult to use the lavatory bowl in Harvard.
And I didn’t get where I am because your grandfather showed me where to go.
Nor did I get where I am on the wrong side of fifty,
by taking up jogging and joining the Jane Austen Book Club
or by learning to kiss like Clark Gable.
No, that’s not how I got where I am, my father said
licking his lips on mum’s Sunday’s apple crumble.

About the author

Jim Burke is a native of Limerick, Ireland. His poems have been published in The Crannog Poetry Journal, The Hong Kong Review, Live Encounters, The…

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Issue 17 · March 2013

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