Mairéad Byrne



What is that West End Blues syndrome? You know, when someone says Ooh West End Blues ooh & wags their head in disbelief at a total loss for words. Oooh West End Blues & then just—aposiopesis. What makes West End Blues something that say Beau Koo Jack is not? You don't hear people saying Oooh that Beau Koo Jack. And Beau Koo Jack is a pretty good tune with wild bits. So what is it? What makes West End Blues magnificent? It's not that I don't recognize the syndrome. Like you write thousands of "poems" & suddenly—jackpot! You got a classic. You recognize it instantly or certainly within a few years & others recognize it too just as quick. You're absolutely thrilled to have produced a classic & don't know how you did it & but you did it you did it you did it Hallelujah Lord! But how does the classic thing happen? Why this & not that? Why then & not now? Why him & not me? What gives that West End Blues a free march into your soul? So yes you have that opening horn carving a staircase in the sky. Then the slow jog oh yes with the comfy undertow & the cornucopia of promises above & the tease of horn & lulling swing & knocking of the little clappers like Rudolph clip-clopping on the first day of summer. It's quite a stroll. Then some slight complaining from the trombone, some insinuation & suggestion, well isn't that just the way. Then that musy clarinet & Louis's sympathetic wad-wad-wa wad-wad-wadda. With the piano marking time oh yes no argument. Then enter Earl for sure with featherlight fingering. Tinkle & thump & trill. The delicious stir-up of it all presided over by that long slow horn arching out & out & out & out. Louis ever so delicate inserting himself to string his tightrope between skyscrapers & pick his way across into the desultory dissolution of the small hours, well it has to happen the dawn. Then Zutty's woodblock click. Oh yes that's something. But what? That is my point here people. And hey fyi did you ever wonder what the W.E.B. in Du Bois stood for? You got it.


I love music.

I love music so much that sometimes when I'm listening to music in my car a whole tide washes over me & I think My GOD!!! I must have some MUSIC!

I reach out to turn the music on & find: It's already on.


I was finding it a bit tedious climbing the stairs so I decided to up the ante. First: Wash the stairs. Next: Lay squares of kitchen paper down. Then: Move up & down the stairs landing only on the squares of paper towel. Rationale: My slippers tend to leave marks on the wet steps. Effect: Increased difficulty climbing stairs, which action now requires tri-partite effort a) almost vertical hoisting of the legs, with b) frantic whole-body follow-through, propelled by c) pumping action of right arm against bannister; with d) descent involving a domino-effect toppling, always in danger of skidding off the paper towel & the step, always in danger of plunging straight down the stairwell like a bucket in a well. Going up & down the stairs is much harder than before, & also much more unusual. Going up is more like ice-climbing. Coming down is more like bungee-jumping. I have started going around the whole house like this. I have put squares of paper towel down in all the rooms & halls so that I can lurch around like Frankenstein, having close encounters with the floors & walls. The house has shrunk & I have grown huge, like a monstrous erection, mindless yet programmed to seek. Full report to follow.


Mairéad Byrne is one of the 11, no the 17, most important Irish poets (living). She has published poems. Born in Dublin in the middle of the last century, she became an American citizen in January 2006. Her ambition, achievable only by virtue of the broadest redefinition of terms, is to talk only in poetry. Her poem was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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