JACKDAWS nest in the limes of Friary hill, tear twigs, lay eggs, raise young, drop eggshells and whiten with their squirted lime-shit the newly washed limousines lined up for Mass, strut about on the road. A robin calls “Swing low, sweet chariot!” over by the French Prison and from near the slaughterhouse on Chairman’s Lane a blackbird answers “Aujourd’hui! Aujourd’hui!” as the legless man is pushed in his wheelchair into a waiting car, and the Buck goes bounding down the narrow stairs and out into the freshness of Cork Street, jacket hooked over one finger, humming “The Mountains of Mourne”, released from arranging that evergreen lament for his male voice choir.
Daybreak comes early in June to the port, with a bantam cock crowing lustily twenty-nine times, mongrels in the morning, the canoodling of pigeons, the tide coming into the town of ghosts (population 2,000); 1601 was but yesterday, and spooks abound. Joy-bells ring for living and drowned (the Irish life underneath the waves); when the tide goes out and the wind drops there’ll be a couple of jumps.
A bitch in heat is being chased through the flat of town by six mongrels anxious to cover her, despite newly enacted by-laws for the control of wandering pets; but ours was ever a country notoriously difficult to control. Windblown pines, surging ambient darkness.
From ‘Sodden Fields’, published in Flotsam & Jetsam (Minerva, 1997; Dalkey Archive Press, 2002), a collection of shorter fiction by Aidan Higgins, along with an Insight Ireland postcard showing part of a run of houses on Summercove in Kinsale, Co. Cork.