Codlata Fear Bocht [Winner of the ODU Undergraduate Poetry Prize]

by Nathan Whelan

Awake in his chair,
sitting up, head cocked
a bit to the right, entranced
by dancing souls of Irish lullabies,

Some days he’ll grace
us with his old self:
a blue collar man,
proud roots, honorable
work, tender and loving

– and then it’s gone,
long forgotten,

leaving us with his shell,
as though he’s shifted planes
residing in another parallel,
a world of slow breathing,
heavy blinking, exaggerated
moments of satisfaction.

Words with different
meanings, the doublespeak
of an alternative mental state,
the docility of a man enslaved,
fully embracing his captor,
no longer afraid of disappointing.

Glossy-eyed, red-nosed,
his hands still clasped
around the bottle
I threw away
hours ago.



About “Codlata Fear Bocht” Judge Rick Barot said: Initially, “Codlata Fear Bocht” seems to be a sketch of a genre scene from lower-class life, a scene inhabited by “a blue collar man,” proudly Irish, “tender and loving.” But the poem’s second half darkens into a portrait of a man that the observer clearly knows in an intimate way.  And by “intimate” of course I’m referring to love—the complicated love of children seeing the devastating flaws of a parent.  By now, poems about alcoholic parents are a sub-genre of their own, but “Codlata Fear Bocht” deftly sidesteps the usual sentimentality that undermines many poems in that sad genre.



As a student at Old Dominion University, Nathan Whelan has become heavily involved in the Hampton Roads community – through owning and operating his own small business and his involvement with several local non-profit organizations. After being awarded the Monarch Scholarship at ODU, he joined with several other students to lead the pilot program for the CIVIC Scholars, a unique organization encouraging civic engagement and professionalism among college students. He is from Virginia Beach and hopes to continue his community involvement into his professional career.