‘A Nation Once Again’

Growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, I lived in a mostly French-Canadian ethnic world. Two sets of my first-cousins had an Irish-American mother and father respectively. St. Patrick’s Day for my father meant a green tie with a shamrock for Mass on the Sunday closest to March 17. My mother worked at Cherry & Webb in downtown Lowell, so she got into the spirit with the shoppers, wearing green and sporting a green carnation at work. And then I married into an Irish family, 100 percent on my wife’s side, which opened a cultural door that I had not stepped through. Following is a prose poem written around 1992 as best that I can recall. The parish of St. Peter’s on Gorham Street was closed in 1986 by the Catholic church authorities in Boston and demolished by those same prelates in 1996. —PM


A Nation Once Again

Brady’s Irish pub at the Spaghettiville train bridge gathers a lunch-crowd of American-Irish from Sacred Heart and the late St. Peter’s parish. The slow dark pint, a cold Harp, beans & franks and burgers with the best hand-cut fries, sprinkled with vinegar. Chunky soup and chowders, sausages on seeded buns, fat lobster rolls. The jukebox spills out crooners, gangsta rap, Hibernian chestnuts. Wall shots of Brady’s bouts, Victorian-Lowell streetscapes, map of the Isle, and the electronic wallpaper of TV.

“Who tripped Bobby Orr when he scored the Cup-winning goal in ’70?”

“Barclay Plager of the Blues?”

“Noel Picard.”

“The Fabulous Moolah.”

“Who’s that?”

“Who’s got what horse?”

“Are you going down to the Derby this year?”

“Did you see the Bruins Friday night? Ray Bourque’s got a stiff hip.”

Martha, Colleen, and Sue, friendly as your favorite aunts, drive the kitchen operation. It’s Irish Culture Week, with Masses, Mary’s soda bread, a tour of St. Pat’s Cemetery, the flag-raising and Gaelic anthem on City Hall steps, ceili at the Elks, and Variety Show. Today’s center-table group at Brady’s will converge at Our Lady of Good Voyages in Boston on Easter Sunday to praise old martyrs and young hunger-strikers, the Four and the Eight, all jailed by and for politics. Outside, the faithful buy medals, buttons, and cards. Our day is near, they say, and, as he does each year, Liam Murphy, who says he scrapped in the 1916 Rising, will turn around in his pew, making a finger-gun: bang, bang.

—Paul Marion (c) 1992, 2006, from What Is the City?