John Fox

Poems to celebrate John Fox who owns what must certainly be the oldest petrol pumps in Ireland. A man known and loved by everyone who's spent time in the Leitrim town of Ballinamore. The photographs are of John Fox, Angela McCabe, John Harte and outside the garage there with Angela is Paddy Mac, the late writer John McGahern's cousin.

John Fox

In January I ask him,
can you fill her up,
I’m driving to Scotland? 

Sweet Devine Jesus, he blesses himself.
What’s bringing you there?
The snow’s bad here,
but it’ll be worse yonder.
Could you not go to Spain?

He goes back to his office,
writes at a wooden table
angled like an old school desk  
under a low sagging roof.

When I return in spring,
volunteer workers
pass by the garage every day.
Aha…I know your people
they wear them flowery pants
and say hi, always cheerful.

A man form America
photographs him.
His portrait is painted.
He shakes his head,
it sold for big money.
I don’t know why, 
and what brings
that McGahern bus
to see me, and this place?

He stares at tyres, briquettes
and gas tanks,
walks back to the workshop
where tools hang askew,
spiders webs in the corners,
gossamer memorials
of a time gone before.

John Fox and The Garage August 2019

I wanted some images of Ballinamore on my website.
My photographer and I stopped at The Garage,
told John our mission and said,
‘May we take some photos of you and me and The Garage?’

‘But your hair’s not right. Could you not do something with it? It’s all a tattle.’
‘I spent an hour getting it to look like this!’
‘Well, you were wasting your time!
Could you not got to the hairdressers, get it done right?’
‘But this is the fashion.’
‘Sweet Jesus, some fashion! God help us!’

Married to his garage, he served petrol
in all weathers every day.
Always with a few words to say, including,
‘Happy Motoring.’

The council worked all summer at the square.
to put in another fountain.
‘Good Jesus, what do they want with another one of those yolks?
Is there not enough water falling on us from the sky?
They lamented over the train station being closed down
and the next thing they’re celebrating it.
It’s backwards we’re going, instead of forwards.’

I came to know John McGahern
when he launched our first anthology.
‘Where do you live?’ McGahern asked.
‘Ballinamore, near the garage.’
Oh, how is John?’

I met McGahern again on a few occasions. He’d greet me and say,
‘You’re the girl who lives beside the garage. How’s John?’
Though he knew well how John was.

Eager to hear what John had to say about McGahern,
his reply was always the same.
‘I don’t know why he’s interested in me.
There’s not a blood’s drop between us.’
‘But his uncle owned this garage and you worked with him?’

And if McGahern were alive today I’d say,
‘I’ve lived near the garage for twenty five years,
the longest I’ve lived anywhere,
with a surety I’d meet that smiling face
at odd times of the day or night.
And now he’s not here, we won’t see his kind again.
It’s the end of an era.