Read Joe's sleeve notes here.
there’s a blackbird in dun laoghaire, when i’m walkin with my sons, through the laneways called ‘the metals’ by the train-tracks. and he sing among the dandelions and bottle-tops and stones, serenading purple ivy, weary tree-trunks. and i have it in my head that I can recognise his song, pick him out, i mean distinct from all his flockmates. and my sons insist it’s fiction; ‘heard one blackbird, heard them all.’ but there are times he whistles up a recollection.
there’s a blackbird in dun laoghaire – and i’m suddenly a kid; askin where from here to sandycove, my youngest sister hid. i’m eleven this easter. my job to mind her. good friday on the pier -- and i suddenly can’t find her.
the sky like a bruise, by the lighthouse wall. we were playin hide-and-seek. is she lost? did she fall? there’s a blackbird in dun laoghaire and the terror’s like a wave, breakin hard on a hull, and the peoples’ faces grave, as yeats on a banknote; stern as the mansions of killiney in the distance, as the pier’s granite stanchions; and howth is a hurt child slumped in dublin bay, and my heart is a drum, and the breakers gull-grey.
the baths. it starts rainin. the people’s park. and my tears of cold shame, and the dogs’ bitter bark. there’s a blackbird in dun laoghaire, and i pray to him, then; for god isn’t here, in a sobbed amen.
and she waves from the bandstand, her hair in damp strings; and the blackbird arises with a clatter of wings from the shrubs by the teahouse where old ladies dream of sailors and kingstown and teddy’s ice-cream.
and we don’t say a word, but cling in the mizzle; and the whistle of the bird gettin lost in the drizzle. mercy weaves her nest, in the dead, wet leaves. there are stranger things in heaven than a blackbird believes.
there is a house, in new orleans, not far from arnold grove. it’s where she sang of broken dreams, guitars, and broken love. and courage. and survival; crushed lucilles in lonesome bars; and the distant cry of lonesome trains on nights devoid of stars.
take a fool to laugh. take a train to cry. fine time to leave me. fixin to die. song was survival and song was a story. badín fheilimí, d'imigh go toraigh. her voice is a weapon. voice is a wound. voice is the murmur of water underground. voice is a love-poem wraithing from the page. voice is a waterfall, RIGHTEOUS with rage. a balm from gilead; a bomb made of sound; a sigh to a scream for the whole world round and a lullaby, too, and a blues from the kips, and a prayer with a safety-pin stuck through its lips. she wilde, beguiled, she keats, she yeats, she whistlin past the graveyard’s moss-covered gates. here mahalia jackson, there sweet etta james, francis street callas, she the vampyah slayah, for babylon rule by the fear and the doom; voice say ‘NO.’ we gwan walk from the tomb.
Say GET up. STAND up. stay forever young. spirit in the bass-line, flame on the tongue. for christ comes again in a january flower. passion is a choice, in the fury of the hour.
home is the place where they got to let you in. don’t be askin where you goin, don’t be askin where you bin. home don’t forget. it’s the mercy of ruth. home is a voice, and three chords, and the truth that was learned-of the hard way, when all seemed lost; for the song made of truthfulness come with a cost.
the pride i feel? there aint the words. consolation? meaning? she got it in spades. grandchild of guthrie. sean-nós punk. niece of joyce and dylan. cub of grace slick. soul be underground and it there she be minin’, stick all your liddle categories where the sun don’t be shinin’. rebel of the morning, voice of all liberties, ringin like a bell through the cold dublin sky; redemption songs, for i and i.
come ye mothers and children with hearts frightened numb; be led to the heart from which all voices come, for home is a story salvaged from the stones she be rollin away from the doors of lonely rooms. yeats say in a rhyme that man’s glory is his friends. this voice is my sister’s. let it send you. let it heal.
i laid on a dune, and looked at the sky, when the summer was young and we roamed on the beach. our coast-town grown livid with sunsets of dream; the future, a coin in a pinball machine.
dem belly full of lies, and phony alibis; see, dem didn’t see nuthin; didden hear, didden speak. can’t stand the livin thought that a flesh- ‘n’-blood woman, who made her mistakes, and couldn’t suffer fakes, who lived by the lights that her nights had burnt deep, in the land of LOOK AWAY, and the land of STAY ASLEEP, the land of SAY NOTHIN, the land of BE MEEK, the land of sainted rockstars, the republic of slum, proved herself the sunday in every fuckin week.
dem preachin dark and dread, but voice say instead: DREAD be the war-cry; never be bought; for like uncle bobby said, choose the devil or the lord, but we all gonna SERVE when the fight get fought.
i see her by the sea, on an august eve in bray; with patti, with marley, with bessie, with zimmy; bunny wailer workin on a cone by the bumpers; sly ‘n’ robbie riffin on a ragga with jimi. king stephen of the cooneys and he bluesin’ up a reel; there’s a red house over yondah, way back upon the hill. you don’t wanna sing? well, thass all righ’.
Ah know my sister will.