an irish airman foresees his death

I know that I shall meet my fate,

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love;

My country is Kiltartan Cross,

My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,

No likely end could bring them loss

Or leave them happier than before.

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,

Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,

A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

I balanced all, brought all to mind,

The years to come seemed waste of breath,

A waste of breath the years behind

In balance with this life, this death.

W.B. Yeats, 1918

play nine: the lonesome west


Author: Martin McDonagh

Published: 1997

Synopsis: The Connor brothers fit right into the casually violent and deeply melancholic town of Leenane, Galway. Here, people walk into the lake and don’t swim back to shore. Woven into this town’s dark fabric, Valene and Coleman have lived out of each other’s pockets their entire lives. Muddy layers of petty disputes and grievances erupt without warning and have cost those few who’ve gotten close to them much. Their mutual hatred sits uneasily with the possibility that they cannot live without each other and the tragedy, perhaps, is that neither is willing to find out.

What moved me: this work is terrifyingly visceral. I saw a production of it in 2009 at Downstairs Belvoir but had forgotten its brutal humour and unkempt menace. It’s like chewing on gristle but being unable to stop your jaw clamping down. Its devastation is the responsibility it gives you to hope: a marrow-of-your-bones weariness knowing that nothing in this world can change but that you are the one who has to believe that it can.