Levelling Up. A poem by Niall McArdle

I know now how Mario must feel,
climbing broken ladders,
dodging barrels hurled his way by an ape,
trying to rescue the girl.

It’s no damsel in distress, though,
that has me out of the house.
I’m just trying to get the messages,
but the trip to Tesco is a gauntlet.

I swerve to escape the fumes of joggers,
sweaty in singlets and spandex,
clogging the footpath, panting like dogs
eager for the throwing of a ball.

It’s not just them that puts my heart crossways.
Toddlers, junkies, little old ladies,
teens who can’t speak Irish yet all got As,
they stand too close with not a mask between them.

And on this Good, or not so Good Friday
(depending on your views on
pub openings, sacrifice and Jesus),
my thoughts are severely less than Christian.

How many crosses would it take, how many nails,
for me to feel like I could walk in safety?
Doing it would be a doddle.
I do have Mario’s hammer, after all.


Niall McArdle’s work has appeared in the Irish Times, Banshee, Spontaneity, Honest Ulsterman, Bangor Literary Journal, RTÉ Guide, AGNI Online and Phoenix Irish Short Stories, and has been broadcast on RTÉ Radio. Say hi to Niall on twitter

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