Saturday, April 28, 2012


photo: Man Walking Across Como Bridge
Scott Maxworthy, 2008
Fom a new friend and a previously unpublished poet.

A little background:

I wrote this a week after my friend Brinsley died. It turned out that Brinsley was his middle name but he liked having the name of a [well-known Irish] playwright. He always wanted to be a writer and found his niche in performance poetry in the last few years before he was diagnosed with cancer.

He had a tough time at boarding school, he told me once. He was an on again off again smoker and was cremated in South London in West Norwood. He was a friend who I got closest to towards the end of his life.

He had mild tremors that persisted through almost two decades of sobriety. Cuchulain, the Irish equivalent of Hercules, was wounded in battle and tied himself to wooden post so that he could fight on to his last breath, the way you would. The jagged man is a reference to the hunger strikers who were from that same part of Northern Ireland as Brinsley was.

Philip McGrade has written one poem, one short story, one movie, for one TV show, and is wrestling with one memoir.

Poem for Brinsley Sheridan

I resented
your occasional criticism
and mistook your
quest for safety
for weakness.

We stopped teasing you
about feeling left out
when you got ill.

These last few years
 you loved your life
 in a way given to few.

You had triumphed then
over boarding school
and a start rich in disappointment
and that sense of unfairness
that dogs us all.

Not even the promise
of a cancer death
at fifty three
could dull the
you’d found.

In the end
you returned
to your Irish roots
facing death
like Cuchulain
and leaving the jagged
corpse of a man who would not eat.

On a sunny April Wednesday
in West Norwood
you finally stopped shaking
and smoked your last.

In a photo that shows
one of the endless
permutations of facial hair
you favoured,
you look down from my wall.

As I struggle
to write a new poem
for a dead poet,
you’re down by the river
a hint of a smile
from the other side of the bridge.

-- by Philip McGrade


  1. Put's me in mind of Cohen's latest album. From the first song, "Goin' Home" here's Leonard,

    "Going home
    Without my sorrow
    Going home
    Sometime tomorrow
    Going home
    To where it’s better
    Than before

    Going home
    Without my burden
    Going home
    Behind the curtain
    Going home
    Without the costume
    That I wore"

  2. "the sense of unfairness that dogs us all" is a wonderful phrase. It makes me think of the protest a little kid voices when he cries out "That's not fair!" at some injustice he experiences. He has no idea of what justice is or is nor, but it is wired into his bones to express what he somehow knows ought NOT to be done to him, but what he can nonetheless not change.

  3. Fr Patrick of MontereyApril 29, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    How sweet and bittersweet. And though 'the hint of a smile from the other side of the bridge' is a lovely image it is also...true, reminding me of a brief dialogue:

    "That is too good to be true!"

    "No, it's so good it must be true!"


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