An Irish lullaby
I was asked in a bar in Boston what was it like to be Irish? The tone of the question was almost pity. With the wall of negativity coming from the Old Sod, no amount of green beer (it being the week of St Patrick's Day) could lift the siege.
It would be rude not to make some stab at an answer but I still tried to dodge it, replying: "That's like asking what it's like to be a fish?"
"A fish out of water," he sneered. I felt like decking him -- but he was right. I was the proverbial trout drowning in oxygen on a foreign riverbank.
"I'll tell you," I said, "if you want to listen?"
The guy looked at me again. He'd got one laugh at my expense, maybe I might be good for another.
"Go right on, sir."
"The Irish have wandered the world without a Moses for centuries. They fought everyone else's battles. They wrote poems and laments because losing was our national industry.
"But some years ago a few leprechauns came together and believed they had the ability to spin pots of gold out of rainbows.
"It was a sight to behold. Everybody was a winner, and wanted to buy into the magic. The Emerald Isle became el-do Rado.
"The party was riotous and ruinous. Everyone wanted to be a king, with his own palace at home and a pied a terre abroad.
"Alas, we ran out of rainbows. They took away the punchbowl and the hangover was severe.
"They chased the bad leprechauns out of office and handed the gig over to a gang of hobgoblins who had been waiting in the wings for years with their own book of spells.
"The clean-up has been tough and the economic cost severe; but the emotional damage has yet to be addressed.
"Everyone feels bad because for the first time in centuries we were driven into the ground by our own weakness. It is a terrible thing to have no one else to blame when you are beaten by yourself.
"No one ever gave us a hiding like the one we gave ourselves."
"So you won't be singing 'When Irish eyes are smiling'?" he chided.
"How about 'Two lovely black eyes'?" I replied.
Boston Mass, USA