On listening to Enda Wyley read ‘Eating Baby Jesus’

… a snippet from the launch of three new Dedalus Press titles (Jessica Traynor’s Liffey Swim, Patrick Kehoe’s The Cask of Moonlight and Enda Wyley’s Borrowed Space – New and Selected Poems).

Dublin, 25th September 2014

Publisher Pat Boran, identifying as both friend and reader of Wyley and her work, mentioned a previous Dedalus Press title in which Enda’s work had appeared, ‘If Ever You Go – A Map of Dublin in Poetry & Song’. ‘I’ve often thought of Enda’s poems as being about place. But when I find (the poems) together in a single volume they add up to something different to what I was expecting, they’re about relationships – the marriage relationship, the relationships with her daughter, with her mother … and I’m delighted that her mother’s here tonight…. ‘

Enda Wyley:
‘… I started out as a young teacher in Nielstown, and it is very strange, I think, gathering
poems together for a new and selected – because you suddenly find yourself back when you were twenty-one. And I found myself back, in this poem, and I really could see the place, feel it, smell it, and I know there are some people here who were in that place too, who taught there too. It was a school in Nielstown, and one day I was standing in the schoolyard to do this lovely thing called yard duty, standing there when a brick came over the railing and smashed into a little kid’s head: he was really injured. And then – because things were always happening in that school – I went into my classroom and the parish priest was there, and he was extremely irate because the chalice had been stolen from the local church and he was wondering, well you know, where’s the chalice gone? But I was teaching fifth class boys and none of them would speak and then when he left I said ‘come on class, does anyone know?’ and then this little hand goes up at the back and he says ‘I stole it’ and I wanted to know why. He said because I wanted to eat the little baby Jesus’s.

‘You know I teach a lot of creative writing classes and I’m always saying, always have your notebooks: your notebooks are really important, but that day I got on the bus – 58 from Nielstown – with just an envelope or something that I’d grabbed out of my bag and I scribbled this poem down called ‘Eating Baby Jesus’.

‘When that early collection was pulled from the slush pile, I think the editor probably just saw the title, ‘Eating Baby Jesus’, and thought oh this is a fine religious book! Actually, when the book came out all those years ago, it ended up in the cookery section as well…. Here we go. ‘Eating Baby Jesus’.’

On a Monday, for something to do,
Gummo crunched Alpen with eucharist –
a ten year old’s breakfast
of roughage and baby Jesus
creamed in a stolen chalice.

No stained glass here,
no well-kept shrine –
a graffitied church
on a housing estate.
On the priest’s roof-top,

housekeeper screeching
in Gummo’s head
like last night’s lifted cars,
he is a young protestor –
a prisoner raining down

piss on the prison yard.
He can climb the school railing later –
tall, iron tree with rusted spikes
and there, lodged in its roots
on the playground side,

a brick.
He wants to send concrete ripples
through the window sea
of classroom heads bobbing on calm.
A child’s face splinters within

and crayon blood figures out
sudden red on a sum copy page.
For this I could dangle Gummo,
roping him upside down
like the kittens they gut live

on this wasteland’s torture branch;
but I know he is fast away,
his hair damp as council walls,
his pulse racing a ghetto beat.
He will run through row upon row

of boxed grey –
hope always dim for him
as headlights in winter smog
from the coal-burning tombs of babies
named after soap stars

and a visiting pope.

(reprinted with permission)