Poetry Rivals 2016

Taking poetry from the page to the stage!

In Canada They Call It Tylenol

They took you to the hospital,
vodka-split and pill-riddled –
did you know that paracetamol
are called tylenol in Canada?
I wouldn’t have known
if it wasn’t for you.
You spoke in tongues to the paramedics,
regressing to your five-year-old self
who couldn’t understand the other wains
with the familiar accent and unfamiliar words.
Your parents gave in and taught you English
because your ma said nobody knew how sweet you were;
because you kept coming in from the street
crying and your da thought if they were bullying you,
he ought to know.
I don’t know if you cried in the ambulance,
I don’t know what Irish for ‘help me’ is,
I don’t know if you asked for help at all
or asked them to let you go.
I shook your parents’ hands at the hospital
because it’s a luxury that we don’t have to know
if you were sorry that you tried –
they would’ve known
what you were trying to say.
You say you don’t remember
but I do –
I wasn’t there but I know,
that in Canada
paracetamol are tylenol
and you’re not supposed to
exceed the stated dose
(two every four hours,
no more than eight in twenty-four hours)
or wash them down with cinnamon-flavoured vodka –
you’ve been a whiskey man ever since I can remember,
even since I learned that there’s little difference between
deartháir céile and deartháir.
I don’t know what paracetamol are called
in Irish, and I don’t know
what you wanted your last words to be.
I know that French and Spanish didn’t turn out to be
the most useful languages to take in school,
I know that Irish is a dying language and I wish to God
I knew more.

Keshia Starrett