Tramp by Alan McMonagle

Of course he lives alone in the dark chill

of a leaky shack at the edge of a swamp

they are forever promising to drain.


Days, he patrols the scrap laneways

and bottle alleys connecting the town’s

sleepy streets; here playing the part


of a half-wit, there presenting himself

as a shrewd local character. His life

of malnutrition, dirt and discomfort


is his own choice. He has tried living

at the shelter, but could not take the routine

and the presence of others. Having started


out with high ambitions, he worked

his way down through booze, card games,

petty theft, bungled burglary and jail-time


that restored his appreciation

for swamp life and the company of rats.

And though he has never managed


to get hold of money, he often thinks

about it, and about what he might do

with his elusive fortune. Riches arrive


in his dreams too, and so vividly,

that in the blessed moment

when he wakes, he is convinced


that the heavy drops spilling into

the brittle hollows of his beaten face

are a gift from some lavish pearl goddess.

Alan McMonagle has published two collections of short stories, Psychotic Episodes (Arlen House, 2013) and Liar Liar (Wordsonthestreet, 2008)His debut novel Ithaca (Picador 2017) was nominated for the Desmond Elliott Prize - and is described by Kevin Barry as "fast and urgent and full of feeling and savage humour and all kinds of tenderness."

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