The rich narrative poems in My Aunts at Twilight Poker provide nuanced and many-sided explorations of Irish and Diasporic life— with particular focus on Eamonn Wall’s hometown of Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, and on St. Louis, Missouri, where he had lived for the past two decades—as both have unfolded through the past century. A focal point of the collection is Annie Murphy- Flood, the author’s grandmother, who arrived in Enniscorthy as a newly married young woman in the early 20th century to open a business and start a family. Her life, practice, and the example she set form the moral force that guides this collection. The book is also a homage to the lives of those who have been written out of history, and a personal response to a town that has changed but endured. In some respects a family history, My Aunts at Twilight Poker also highlights the role that places play in the development of their inhabitants. Writing from a distance across time and space allows Eamonn Wall the opportunity to recreate and observe quietly but uniquely. One home place is observed from another home place: we can belong to more than one town, city, or country. In poems that focus on the lives of the Irish overseas, Eamonn Wall asserts their connectedness to and roots in Ireland and wherever across the globe they have settled. Formally varied and blissfully alive, My Aunts at Twilight Poker is a finely tuned work, charged and captivating.
“Present while absent.” That phrase from Eamonn Wall’s elegy for Tom Doyle might serve to illuminate the entirety of My Aunts at Twilight Poker . In these poems, Wall – an Irish emigrant – registers the losses wrought by time, death, distance, urbanization, and pandemic isolation, yet in quietly recalling the textured particulars of what we’ve lost, he richly restores that reality. Years after his death, the father’s “fingers tug at my cotton sleeve”; far off in childhood’s memory, the mother whispers “WHISHT” – each startlingly yet comfortingly present. Wall’s stance is characteristically casual, self-deprecating – “I am a rambler of no importance” – but his attentiveness belies that summation: “I live in an old / unwitnessed world,” a world he witnesses on our behalf; “a loved man / among strangers,” strangers we too come to value through the luminous poems collected here.
NATHALIE F. ANDERSON author of Stain
Eamonn Wall's poems, though always graceful, are ever capable of lancing lost dreams and visions. Tread softly when you step inside this book, for his words are like depth charges designed to lighten the weight of memory.
LARRY KIRWAN author of Rockaway Blue: A Novel and Paradise Square