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2008-01-17 - 11:15 p.m.

I learned how to fake an Irish jig that night, by mapping the slashes left on my shins. As the night filled up with drink, boots started running rough shod over the torn wood underneath. The folk music onstage might as well have been punk, drawing a pit of the brave before them. The assembled locals gathered into lockstep, and gifted each song with an added chorus.

“Yanks go home! Yanks go home! Yanks go home!”

Most of them smiled through the taunt, carried away with revelry and brotherhood, others stared at our little table of expatriates, and let us know they’d rather be sharing this alone. We order another round of whiskey and stout. We were friends with half of them by the end of the night. A miracle managed in intoxication and shared cigarettes.

As we stumbled out of the pub on Temple Bar, skidding to and fro with the tide of cobbled roads, I hummed a new song to myself, and began repeating back the lyrics, committing them to unstable memory.


It takes quite a bit for me to pinch of a piss midstream. It’s not a pleasant experience, as anyone with urethra can tell you. But the words wafting in underneath the door circled the ones in my head, like patchwork. Missing and matching. When enough of the string tied, I curled myself back, and hurried the hatch closed.

My dramatic side had me bursting out of the bathroom, with mouth agape. I stood and stared at the guitarist on the stage, and lost my conciencious low tone of voice. I answered the eyebrows of my friends with too loud a statement.

“I haven’t heard this song in ten years,” the ramble began. As the pinched words started gushing from my mouth, a girl two tables ahead turned to hear, and she smiled.


My parents decided to see Dublin, using me as an excuse to cash in on my Dad’s million miles. I took them to that pub in Temple, the tourist district. My mom would have wilted at the sight of the watering holes I’d found myself across the Liffey. Still, it shook her to see the glass of Bailey’s I’d bought for her. Her youngest son, buying her a drink, in a rusted pub.

That same band played, and they played that song again. My parents and I are well set to having long trails of silence when the occasion calls, and this was one occasion. I took in the words again, tapping my foot, and mapping the holes in my memory.

In the weeks that followed, I tripped again and again to those locals across the Liffey while the others in my group sightsaw along the coast. In the weeks after that night when I last heard that song, I found myself in my first knife fight; found myself waking up someplace strange with a strange feeling in my temples, and stories of even stranger things that had happened the night before. I found myself underneath a tree in Stephen’s Green thinking of the thing I’d saved, only to leave it like that.

On one of our last nights there, we celebrated. One of the boys in our group decided he would kiss everyone, all of us, boy or girl. Our instructor included. And he did. Except for one boy in the corner, who curled into a ball to ward off such lips. I smiled at him from across the room, watching as his friends tried to talk him out from under his arms.

“We’re corrupting that poor kid,” I said to the girl beside me.

She smiled.


Ten years and the words still stuck in my head like barbs. Over time the singer onstage hit a word that didn’t match, and it caught my ear like aberrant scratch on the record. I stung at every difference and change, and as we walked away from the bar, well doused in suds, I mouthed the lyrics I knew one more time.

Before we’d left I had run up to the man who’d played that decade old song, needing to know how he’d come across this relic of my life.

“Pete Seger,” he said.

I wanted so badly to say that he’d had the lyrics wrong, but I didn’t have the nerve.

Instead, I walked along the sidewalk, mumbling, while the youngest of us, still short of drinking age, plowed along on her skateboard. Just barely able to dodge the oncoming foot traffic.


I’d love to say I learned that song on those two nights alone; that the melody so struck me that two chance meetings would have ingrained it into my heart, but in reality I bought the house band’s CD on that second night. It sat in my pocket for the next few months, circling the words into my memory again and again.

A month later, I loaned the disc out. And I never saw it again.

They couldn’t find it. They’d looked.

It was just gone.

There were at least ten other songs on that disc. All I remember is this one song. But I remember all of it.


I don’t like to sing. Someone with a dim enough ear once told me I had a nice enough voice, just no training, and in my sillier moments I like to believe them. Even like to think, in my sillier moments, that my lack of training adds a authenticity to the songs I sing to myself.

Still, couplets slipped from my mouth, when I needed to hear them to remember. I turned to my friends, explaining the song. I pitched the song to four ears anxious to get back into the bar where a pinch more drink waited. They yanked at each tangent that presented itself while the silly boy kept warbling on about this dark folk song.

They drank and talked while I stood alone in the bathroom, too distracted remembering the bridge to actually go ahead and pee.


Comfort food. It was simply comfort food for so long. Sung to girlfriends as they whisked themselves to sleep, on those evenings I thought it poignant to slam lyric into the meandering narrative of our days. Sung to myself outside parties where I took a break from the imagined drama waiting for me inside.

My roommates would find me in my room, singing it when I tripped over my own head, leaning on some dark folk song to simplify the webs I’d drawn onto the ceiling.

I reminded myself of every lyric again and again until it was stone. A hard place to return to with certainty. At least knowing the curve of the story there, when I didn’t everywhere else.

No one else knew it. No one. Not even the crew who went with me to Ireland that summer.

Two years later, in a bar called Eamon’s, another house band rifled through folk song after folk song, but never came on mine. In between sets I came up and sang them a few verses. No one knew it.

Moments later, I was drunk, and singing for the whole bar.


It took me a week to look up the title I’d heard him call it in that bar in Williamsburg. It didn’t turn up much at first. Then I ran it through an online music library, and suddenly, ninety-three hits. Version after version after version. Ninety-three to choose from, and none of them with the same lyrics. None of them with my lyrics either.

Of course my favorite would be from an ex-girlfriend’s favorite singer.

Of course I’d find a karaoke version I couldn’t think to download since it was marked “Christian.”

Of course there were ninety three copies of this song.

Of course it wasn’t mine.

High voiced angels again and again. Appalachian accents again and again. Scratched recordings. An oddly repeated sitar. But none of them perfectly in chorus to mine.

I started writing. I needed my lyrics down before I fell for the rewrites. The same story told by so many different voices with so many little bits changed. Many for the better. I needed my version down before I lost it in the storm of differing opinion.


I thought to put it out in the open. My lyrics to this song apparently everyone knows. But I can’t sing. I can’t paint the way I heard it those ten years ago. I can’t take anybody there. Those lyrics are there for me. And that’s where they will stay. Comfort food. An old corruption. A shocking, gleeful reacquantence.

Mine, but just barely.

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