By the fountain of Eyre Square
and the writhing flags of fourteen tribes,
you hear a woman warn of sin
till you feel the subtle slope of Shop Street,
umbrellas held at sides,
where sallow-skinned ladies hug Oscar Wilde.

Imagine how it looked
hundreds of years before,
a medieval town of noise,
creaking carts laden with food,
fish fresh from beached boats
and words you might not understand,
though some of them endure.
The rain then was no worse than now,
and in this town, it’s a constant theme
that enchants a rambling mind.
You wish the sky would spare you,
let you savour a simple walk,
but you know it’s rarely so kind.

So easy to ignore the cars
as you cross to Quay Street,
but not those thoughts
of eyeing shelves in Charlie Byrne’s,
where a minute’s search is hours lost.
You overhear the talk of books
from pinted folk on Neachtains chairs,
hearing the whispery prayers of the river
asking forgiveness
for all the stray hearts it ensnared.

Not far from the Spanish Arch,
you face the current, button your coat,
passing the garden of Jurys.
A small herd of apartments gathers
around what seems like a private pool,
though you know the public stop,
thinking how it would be to live there,
sitting on a window sill,
watching the still water stooping
till it’s sucked into the river.
On along the leafy path,
you cross the road to wooden planks
that make a fool of those who rush
when a shower has slickened its slant.

The footpath flings you away from the river,
toward the Salmon Weir Bridge.
A van waits before the bend,
where the turn of the bus is melodramatic.
When will they widen this bridge?, you wonder,
stepping briefly onto the road,
your hair brushed by the bus’s mirror,
faced with Galway Cathedral,
stout and grey, like an ageing queen
in a turquoise crown beaten plain
by decades of penance to wintry rain.

Along the canal,
students stream en masse.
And do you recall with affection
those years of essays, a girl in your class?
By Presentation Road,
something in the chilly water shines;
you lean closer to see it better
- like a red stain across the stone -
a broken bottle of Buckfast wine.
The chunky, weathered wood of the sluice
restrains a charge of plastic and slime.
Frothy water seeps through,
dropping to a lower depth
a little at a time.

Cars squeeze through Mill Street
as water spills through holes, tumbles over stones
near a mischievous bend
wrapped around a small, white house
whose kitchen, you think, has overflown.
On Dominick Street, you glimpse a sculpture
behind a smudged window,
but you might forget it by Raven Terrace,
crossing to the Claddagh
before it surrenders the Corrib to the sea,
where a man engulfed in a blizzard of wings
throws bread discriminately.

Be careful as you step
round iron rings where dirty ropes
are tied to lilting boats.
A crow watches from a crossbar
two spaniels running between the posts.
A train in the distance bound for Dublin
leaves gingerly, almost reluctant,
and you feel a stinging breeze
as winter descends on this town.
It’s then that a tap on your head
confirms the fear you had all along.
There’s nowhere near to offer shelter
as rain comes lashing down.

Trevor Conway