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Cain and Abel -- Paul Durcan

Guest poem sent in by Frank O'Shea
(Poem #1242) Cain and Abel
 My name is Cain MacCarthy.
 I am a Senior Counsel, forty-nine years old.
 A Bencher of the King's Inns.
 No humbler fellow could you meet outside a courtroom.
 Inside a courtroom I am pedigree ape.

 When I get a witness in the witness box
 I imbibe the witness's entrails
 Only to spit them out again,
 Draping them - entrail by entrail
 On the rails of the witness box.

 I earn £700,000 a year before tax.
 I do not deny they are entitled to tax me
 But I protest at the exorbitant tax
 That overworked barristers like myself have to pay
 To subsidise blackguards like my brother.

 My brother. Yes. My brother.
 He is a priest. God help us.
 Father Abel CSSp.
 To spell it out, a Holy Ghost.
 Spent most of his life in South America.
 Would to Jesus Christ he had stayed there.
 Things were okeydoke so long as he was away on the missions
 But every time he'd land home on leave
 There'd be trouble. Nothing would do my wife
 But to invite him to break bread with us
 Every other night of the week - she could not have enough
 Of him. I was sick of the pair of them
 Nattering away about Social justice and Liberation Theology,
 Papal Encyclicals, Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno,
 And - one of his party pieces - how the beggars in Nassau Street
 Those good-for-nothing tinker teenage mothers and their pups
 Are icons of the Holy Mother and the Infant Jesus
 And, as if all that were not enough, Poetry!
 Poetry! To behold her eyes gaping at him
 As he quoted Oscar Wilde or some such alcoholic pansy
 Was enough to make me puke my roast lamb.

 It was the night he criticised my colleague Mr Wyse Power
 One of the most patriotic advocates ever to grace the bar
 That I flipped my lid. I grabbed him by the curlies
 And dragged him out the French door into the back garden.
 'Oh no! Oh no' - I could hear him moan.
 But I was in a cocoon of my own.
 My youngest kiddie's baseball bat was on the sill
 Of the utility room and that is how I did it.
 I beat him to death with a baseball bat and as I did it
 I called to mind having intercourse with my wife
 On our last holiday in Florida.
 We have a time-sharing apartment in Orlando, Florida.

 As I thumped him
 I developed an erection
 And I felt profoundly calm,
 Profoundly humble.

 My beloved brother, I never knew you
 Until this moment. I never knew
 That deeper than my lechery for my wife
 Was my detestation of you.
 Although I married my wife for the broad view of her hips
 And in terms of bed pleasure she has not let me down -
 In fact, she'd jump over the moon
 With me gripping onto her breasts
 With my teeth if I told her to
 I have never known such pleasure
 As I have known in the liquidation of my brother.
 As he gasped his last gasp for mercy
 I could feel my right nipple stiffen
 In a lilac halo.
 I switched on the tv and watched a half-hour of Gulf War.
 When the police came I told them he had attacked me.
 Naturally they believed me.
-- Paul Durcan
           (1944 - )

Another poem based on a painting, this time Cain and Abel, (c 1620, Circle
of Riminaldi).

You don't have Paul Durcan in your backlist! He is entitled to be described
as Ireland's most prolific poet over the last 20 years or so. His work is
irreverent, slanted, funny, inventively satirical. His performances - a
better word than readings, I think - are always delightful.

This poem is taken from his book Crazy About Women, a selection of poems
based on paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. He has
another collection Give Me Your Hand, based on paintings in the National
Gallery of London. In his introduction to the Dublin book he writes "It is
promulgated by the arbiters of culture that an artist should have only one
spouse. An artist such as myself with the two spouses of poetry and
picture-making is not looked upon favourably by the chaperones of art. Let
us be chivalrous to the chaperones but let us never compromise with their
punitive monomania." Bravo, sir.

These two books are beautifully produced; the reproductions of the paintings
is startling. By the way, do not confuse Paul Durcan with Paul Muldoon, also
an Irishman but much more in touch with the chaperones of modern poetry, ie

By the way, Durcan is related on his mother's side, to Major John MacBride,
husband of Maud Gonne. He is from a legal family, so he is entitled to have
a swing at the legal bods. And isn't it easy to compare this with one of
Browning's dramatic monologues. The last two lines recall the ending to
Porphyria's Lover.

Frank O'Shea

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