Four Parts Sand

Eoin Devereux

September 12, 2022


I started seven weeks or so before the swimming season began.

An odd hour grabbed here and there while I was on the road repping for The OLO — Our Lady’s Own Mineral Water Company. Hand picking my catch between ragged tidelines and emerald samphire beds. Harvesting near caves and dunes in the east and west: ancient rocks, stones, pebbles — stirred, scarred, smoothed, and rounded in the boiling cauldron of the sea.

Bucket by bucket, week by week, I carried my quarry home, building tiny mounds on the narrow shingled garden path of flint, granite, jasper, quartz, limestone, sandstone, and whinstone. Heap after heap, sentry-standing between the rows of vegetables and summer flowers in the landlocked plot. Isn’t it amazing all the same what you can fit into the boot of a Mark 1 Ford Escort?

An unexpected heatwave ensured a thirsty season and extra hours on the tar-melting roads. The huckster shops, singing lounge bars, and hawkers with their “cigarettes and chocolates and minerals — here now, lads”, all clamoring for the temporary quenching offered by the Orange Crush, American Cream Soda, and Red Lemonade.

It was in the dregs of Indian summer weather when I got the chance to start. I built a wall on a shallow foundation of sand and shale, the largest boulders shouldering the greatest weight at either end. Guided by the batter-frame, I layered mortar between the crevices, firmly anchoring the Buck and Doe, hearting the stone, my father’s 2 lb hammer belting the worn stubby cold-steel chisel. Its steady staccato rhythm carried gravelly echoes of his forty-Players-Navy-Cut-a-day voice. In the hammer’s ringing I heard him say:

All the tools in the world are fine, lad, but what you really need for a job like this is a steady hand and a keen eye. Four parts sand and one part cement (with a squirt of washing up liquid) will give you the best mix. Don’t use too much water now, because you don’t want it too wet or too dry.

It’s not just walls that protect us. There’s comfort too in the traces that people leave behind and in the dialogues we have with ourselves when they are no more.

A Professor of Cultural Sociology, Devereux’s poetry has been published by The Irish Times, broadcast on RTE’s Poetry Programme and featured on Poetry Ireland’s Words Lightly Spoken Podcast. His poem “The Bodhi Tree” was short-listed for a Hennessy Award in 2018. He curated the Limerick Poetry Broadsheet “April Is The Cruellest Month” in 2022 which featured work by the renowned poets and writers John Liddy, Martin Dyar, Emily Cullen and Donal Ryan. Eoin teaches the course Creative Writers in the Community on the MA in Creative Writing at University of Limerick, Ireland. He writes and performs a monthly radio show called The Cedarwood Chronicles with Gavin Friday on the U2 radio station U2X Radio on the Sirius Platform in the USA & Canada. He has also written the sleeve-notes for the re-released versions of The Cranberries’ albums “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” and “No Need To Argue.” His poetry is concerned with Social Class, Homelessness and Mental Illness.