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FORTY FIVE (poem) - Martina Evans - Ireland - Poetry International
 
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Forty-five
My head eventually grew
over the top
of the biscuit and white
formica table in the bar
and I could see them there
playing Forty-five.

Big red hands with cuts
and grazes and crumpled
fingers, clutching cards
that had to be slammed
to the table with thumps
and cracks of bone
and hahs of triumph.

I, too,
wanted to have a blazing face
when I threw down the
gauntlet of a Joker or a five
and in the winter dark evenings
Tom Twomey, Bill Drummy
and Paddy the Priest played
Beggar my Neighbour, Old Maid
and even forty five with me.

I was ignorant
of the crucial fact
that gabbing
was worse than reneging,
but they listened, even laughed
and played politely,
keeping their energies
for the evening feast.

Then I hid out
on the window sill
wrapping
the red velvet curtains
round me
like an angel
that would appear
in a biblical land,
peering out at a world
of passion and precision
I could not understand.

Set jaws, spellbound fists, gleeful flings,
blue eye after blue eye
after brown eye,
all holding their whist.
Angel Gabriel could have come
and blown his trumpet off,
the Second Coming
could have come and gone,
they wouldn’t have heard a thing.

Editor's Note: Forty-five is a popular, ancient card game in County Cork, Ireland.