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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Of All Places

John McAuliffe

Old Style

Of All PLaces Book Cover By J McAuliffe

Not just the lay-by, or the motorway
or its central reservation.
Not just the ring road, or the cul-de-sac
with its pretty forsythia border.
Not just the house, or its extension,
and its hundred windows shining away.
Instead the known world and the unseen,
to which you'll come back:

that is, the point of departure, the destination,
and all points in between.
A free drift to nowhere in particular.
All that way, and back again.


During training, on the Cows Lawn, one of the smokers,
a boy from Ballylongford, coughed up blood, black clots of it. We stood on the sidelines till he was taken away. This was the time O'Hare, the Border Fox, was on the loose.
That day, arriving home from school, who didn't promise he'd never ever take a pull again? Not in the school bag, not in the back way, not in the fag-breaks at the petrol station. But another rumour released us. It was the farm and badgers:

brock, feral, slow-clawed terror of the ditch and yard, wind-pissing shit-spreader, emptier of field and house. Its fellow travellers, then as now like garrulous crows,
swore the opposite, the blood-dregs nothing to their stone-silent survivor, always in the right, and us and the herd safer. Or so they put it about even as, barely visible behind the numbers, old tales resurged about loosened fence-posts and sloping, scraped-up footpaths.

O'Hare could not be found by the guards: that smokeless week I stood in the porch (under a new, secure intercom) rubbing a leaf between my thumb and index finger,
noticing a little movement in a Volkswagen parked, as it had been all along, past the last gate, as if this were a garage forecourt and not a dead end, a river facing it, its animal sentries unvisited as those on many another road.