Sharing a Sink with John B. Keane in a Pub Toilet

Steve Denehan

Steve Denehan

Steve Denehan lives in Kildare, Ireland with his wife Eimear and daughter Robin. He is the author of two chapbooks and three poetry collections. Winner of the Anthony Cronin Poetry Award and twice winner of Irish Times' New Irish Writing, his numerous publication credits include Poetry Ireland Review and Westerly.

I am rarely in a pub
I had never been in Kerry
but that evening I found myself
in a pub in Tralee

the smallest of talk had sent me scurrying
to a cubicle in the pub toilet
and I sat there
killing time

people came and went
while I read graffiti
in a stench
thick as soup

eventually, I steeled myself
opened the cubicle door
walked to the sink to wash my hands
when in he walked—

John B. Keane
eyes hooded, nose long, shoulders sloped
older, but the same
he stood beside me at the sink

winked at me in the mirror
reached into his suit jacket
pulled out a toothbrush
and a tube of toothpaste

started to talk in his heavy accent
a dozen words a second
brushing his teeth all the while
toothpaste foaming on his lips

I told him that I had read "Sive"
and, with his eyebrows high
he spat into the sink
and asked if I had liked it

I paused
too long
much too long
his laughter shook the cubicles
the palm of his hand landed hard on my back
and as I watched the toilet door
slowly close behind him
he was laughing still
 
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