I live in The Liberties, one of the oldest parts of the city of Dublin, the outer suburb of the medieval walled city where the native Irish lived to trade with and serve the city’s Norman rulers. It is an area rich with history and a strong sense of community.

The Bells of St Patrick’s is the first of a series of poems I plan to write about my home. It makes sense, I think, for a poet to reflect on their surroundings. Another poem in this series is Organic, a story about an historical incident when a wild fire created by an exploding bonded warehouse unleashed a river of burning whiskey that threatened to engulf the city until the chief fire officer, Robert Ingram, came up with a unique plan to stop it.

Jack Roche is a greengrocer. His shop is on Meath St, the commercial heart of the community. A visit to Jack’s shop is far more than a destination to buy fruit and vegetables. Jack is involved in the community. He’s a philosopher and a comedian, a historian and an intellectual. He loves folk music, crooners, jazz, swing and country. International artist, Imelda May grew up a short walk from Jack’s shop and there’s a photo of her and a personal message to Jack hanging in his shop.

So here’s my poem about Jack. I call it, The Libertie’s.

The Libertie’s


Jack closed his shop,

the lease was up,

the rent was rising,

but the joke’s on them.

 Two weeks later,

he rose again,

a phoenix, unquenched

and undaunted.


People visit Jack’s,

buy a box of cherries,

a bag of tomatoes,

a melon to squeeze,

shoot the breeze,

a philosophical discourse

while Luke Kelly

sing about the love he lost

on Raglan Road.

He’ll fill your cart,

discussing Descartes.


Taciturn, learned comic,

well read and involved,

with little time for fools

and all day to be foolish

among the fruit

and bags of curly Kale,

five types of spuds,

he’ll cut your turnip 

and the parsley’s free.


What’s home,

is it where you’re known, 

where you hang your hat,

 and buy your food?

it’s there on Meath St,

The Liberties’ Greengrocer

where crooners sing

and fruit is counted

 in grocer’s numbers,

where you’ll walk a mile

 not just for the fare,

but the breadth of a smile.


8 thoughts on “Libertie’s, a poem

  1. Some years ago I walked alone down Marrowbone Lane and said out loud to my long gone grandfather, “thanks for emigrating to America Grandpa”. Nice job Dermott describing a community. I now sort of wish I lived at 50 Marrowbone Lane.

    • All cities have their attractions, Terry, but too often they can only be seen by their occupants. What can I say? I live here and I love it but it can, by times, anger, frustrate and frighten me.

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