Wednesday, June 27, 2012


gate, N6, Galway
I finally watched Garage on DVD the night before last. I am ashamed that it has taken this long. As Wiki says, Garage 'is a 2007 Irish film directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Mark O'Halloran, the same team behind Adam and Paul. It stars Pat ShorttAnne-Marie Duff and Conor J. Ryan. The film tells the story of a lonely petrol station attendant and how he slowly begins to come out of his shell.' I must add that it was edited (beautifully) by my cousin, Isobel Stephenson, who won an IFTA for her work on Love/Hate.

The film is about loneliness and innocence, and the inevitable loss of the latter; about the tragic collision of three different kinds of innocence: that of the central character, Josie (a wide-eyed, child-like man brilliantly played by Pat Shortt), that of the 15-year old boy who befriends him and, to a lesser extent, the innocence and naivety of the trucker who thinks he is doing Josie a favour by giving him a porn video. Of course the video is a ticking bomb that will have to detonate. 

There is plenty of bittersweet comedy in Garage. The film is perfectly cast. It distills a certain kind of midlands Ireland, slightly off the beaten track, the business on its last legs, a backdrop of overgrown lanes, high bramble, fields of deep, grazing silences, an Edenic stillness and lushness. There is even an apple; more than one in fact. To quote Derek Mahon's 'Garage In County Cork': 

Surely a whitewashed suntrap at the back
Gave way to hens, wild thyme, and the first few
Shadowy yards of an overgrown cart track,
Tyres in the branches such as Noah knew –

Yes, surely it did, and does. Innocence collides with innocence and begets knowledge (of a kind). And the tragedy, when it comes, closes without an apparent ripple, as quietly inevitable as the encroaching sunrise, the evening foretold by the film's mute chorus, which in this instance may well be a horse. Ah, the horse! You'll have to see the film to find out what I mean. Look out for the last shot, that final frame: perfect filming, and the editing is pure genius. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

At The Fringe, Edinburgh

It seems, now, I will never find
your shoes, father, let alone fit in them,
though I still hope to follow the cold trail
of adventure in your smile, your spark
that landed me here, where
even though I am a father in my turn,
my footing is far from certain.

Rumours rustle in the visible
branches of my family tree. An uncle
traced you, found a married man. But no
he did not (or maybe it slipped his mind).
A cousin heard you might have lived in Medicine Hat ––
Medicine Hat! Such a marvellous name
I tried it on for size, for a while.

A French Canadian soldier, my mother said,
neglecting to mention which war
claimed you, so I grew up thinking
World War Two, realising eventually
it ended a decade too early.
Tentative questions raised that flicker of pain,
slaps from a self-interrogation.

Have I other half-brothers? Sisters?
How many of your whip-tailed seeds made it home?
I suppose you’re gone now, burned
or buried, dog-tagged in stone,
but until I can mark, encircle
wherever you hung your hat, you’ll remain
enchanted, undead, prone, your face

furiously shifting and running, fast-
forwarding weather, the everyday
sky convoys, sea’s military colours,
crowd-faces in the street, on TV, armies
of old men –– all and none
remind me of you. My known
unknown, how have you shrunk, grown?