The Linnet's Wings :Take All My Loves, My Love - Page 82

The Linnet´s Wings or old marble heads, captivating me with a sound so Irish I was proud. I will arise now and go to Innisfree oh, and the deep heart’s core. The lineage found me: I didn’t find it, and the echoes of those nights ring yet. But other things come repeatedly for him: Johnny Igoe only ate oatmeal in the morning, a boiled potato and a shot of whiskey for lunch. By and on other things he lived. On the handle of a cane he would rest his chin, his eyes on you making announcements you dared not lose. He made Yeats’s voice to be his own voice, that marvelous treble and clutter of breath buried in it, The Lake Isle of Innisfree popping free like electricity or the very linnets them- selves. Maude was like some creature I’d surely come to know in my own time. Johnny Igoe also wrote his own poems, and yielded me Mulrooney and Padraic Gibbons as well out of the long rope of his memory. The knots of that rope untied all those Saturday evenings of his life and mine, on that porch. He launched many of my own poems here, by the dozens, and at the end, at 97, stained, shaking, beard gone to a lengthy hoarfrost, potato drivel not quite lost in it, he gave me his voice and eyes alive to this day, sounding out in his own way. Later, time hustling me on, in a Caedmon Golden Treasury of Poetry record, I heard Yeats read his own material, three short poems. I swore it was Spellbinder Johnny Igoe still at work. But first things first: I quickly remember him as the Dumpmaster at the City Dump in Malden, Massachusetts, where he ended up after his early travels and began his family. He had been the first Irish sailor of his family, sailing here alone, while his mother was on her death bed. All those long days and nights at the dump, the destitute came to him for warmth, for food, for a place to put up their feet on a freezing night. They came to him, the drunks, the homeless vets still wandering loose from France and WW I, street people who then had no such name. They knew the welcome of his fire, the monger’s stove to wrap around, hot curbing to prop cold feet, quick difference from the frozen air, wind-swept railroad tracks, bare entry ways, darkness where howling ghosts abide. Or, as often was the case, their last resort, the slim cardboard wrap. He burned clinkers in a little shack he made of scrap. The lost, lonely birds came to him to roost. They flew in at dusk. He stoked the fire to stir up flames, dried their feathers off. Just as often he left his lunch about like tasty suet hanging in the yard. On Saturdays I brought his lunch, dense laminates of meat and bread, thick and heavy and coarse as sin, brown banana we would not eat, molasses-brown coffee in whiskey bottles wound about with paper bags. I never saw even one pint bottle finished off within his grasp. I rarely saw his small hand feeling inside a paper bag. His birds did the picking, had suet choice, hens dining before the cock. That was as much his legacy as anything else he might have done or said. He cared for the downtrodden, those short-circuited by life, those who had paid their dues and somehow, through their humanity itself, had fallen prey to loss and deprivation. Mercy was what he preached, and that memory should be noble, and comfort to the aggrieved and succor for the pained should be a career. He made me observe the human condition. He made me look at man from the floor up, from his lowest grovel to his pinnacle, to realize that we end in dust before we move on, the man- ner of a man being God-like. This kind and thoughtful man for years dreamed of his return to Ireland, but he never made 82