Acclaimed novelist Joseph O’Connor, from Glenageary in Dublin, who won international recognition with ‘Star of the Sea’ (2002) and ‘Redemption Falls’ (2006) wrote a special poem for Philip Chevron’s testimonial on 24 August.
I doubt that many people know that Joseph O’Connor’s first non-fiction book (and second book published) was a biography of the Tyrone Republican Socialist and poet Charles Donnelly who was killed in the defence of the Spanish Republic with the International Brigades. It was based on his MA thesis, for which he was awarded a First Class Honours, in Anglo-Irish Literature at UCD. He completed this Masters after returning from a five month trip to Nicaragua where he had reported on the aftermath of the Sandinista revolution for various Dublin publications. ‘Even the Olives are Bleeding – the life and times of Charles Donnelly’ was published by New Island Books in 1992.
Here is the text of the beautiful poem that Joesph wrote for Philip.
Note: It can’t be reproduced further without his permission.
A BRIDGE FOR PHILIP CHEVRON
On his sixteenth Christmas Eve, a boy in wintry Dublin
Bought an album he’d heard on a pirate-station show.
‘TV Tube Heart’. Maybe you know it.
As he took the bus homeward the streets filled with snow
And late that night, alone in his room
He played those songs over and the world burst alive
In the voice of a city on the cold Irish Sea.
Passionate. Eloquent. Longing to be free.
THUNDER in the drumming and the punk rock guitars
Like Molly Malone meets the Spiders from Mars.
Lyrics with a BLAZE and a beauty hard and fine
From a poet. And a Dubliner. Name of Philip Ryan.
CHEVRON they called him. Cool as a knife.
Smoothest Irish writer ever seen in your life.
SPARKIN images together till they scorched off the paper.
NO ONE told a story like that Chevron shaper.
Martyrs on the banknotes. Liars on the box
Killers on the altar rails, shadows on the docks.
Pearse on his pedestal, still dreamin’ a dream.
He’d like to stick a Telecaster
Through the television screen.
Then Brother Brophy caught me outside a the class
Listenin to Philip when I shoulda been at Mass.
Big stew-eatin’ bollocks from Upper Drumcondra
And he’s not a huge admirer of the….punk rock…genre
Well his eyes are kinda flashin and his lips are turnin blue
Says Get in there to Confession or I’ll radiator YOU.
Father O’Reilly says Bless you, my child,
And how long has it been since you last…reconciled?
I said, Bless me, Father, been nearly a year.
See….I got the ticket and the bus stops here.
You see, I saw you there, Philip,
In hushed Dublin streets,
Walking at dawn past a shuttered store
Or pausing a moment to look at the statues
Of Wilde. Larkin. Joyce. Thomas Moore.
Grey gulls above Christchurch
The old city sleeping
McGonagles closed and a rumour of snow
And there’s little to hear but the dawn alleluia
Of a garda-car siren down Portland Row.
Your mind raining melodies, nighttowns of humour,
Cabaret, greasepaint, heart-aching wrong,
Your heroes, inconvenient people in corners,
People that rarely get put in a song.
Early-house ghosts in the hunger of morning
Five-o-clock shadowmen shook by the fates,
Huers and bogeymen waiting for openings.
People unnoticed by cold eyed Yeats.
I saw you there, Philip, walking lost Dublin theatres.
Brunswick Street, Francis Street, down towards the Coombe,
City of actors, in all of her vagaries,
Wandering back to her lonely room,
Loving her streelings and early-hour homecomings
The LASH of her wit and her dirtyfaced talk
You and the spirit of Micheal MacLiammoir
Talkin of Bowie
On Bachelor’s Walk.
I saw you there, Philip, drifting past Trinity,
Cobbles of history moistened by mist
Head full of powerchords, thunderstorm images
Lovers you kissed.
Your shy smile by Bewleys.
Your handshake to Duke Street
Some evening when August had glittered the town.
The windows all shining in glorious cadence
With your stubblecheek grin and your beautiful frown.
You pause on the bridges
Named for our poets.
I saw you there, Philip.
You always knew –
A song is a bridge on
I saw you there, Philip.
This bridge is for you –
And the thousands gone sailing
While Kitty Ricketts weeps.
‘Cross the street from Clery’s clock
The G.P.O. sleeps.
Johnny Jukebox in the Ghosttown
Still paintin up his lips.
‘Stranger than fiction,’
Sighed the girls in the kips.
Thank you, Philip Chevron.
I’ll sing no more.
Million dollar hero
In a five and ten cent store.
© Joseph O’Connor, August 2013