A Gift for the President
. . . Mr Bush's appearance today to receive a bowl of shamrock from the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, at the White House . . .

The Irish Times, March 13th 2003
I hold seminars on this sort of thing.
‘Why,’ I ask my art students,
‘is there a bunch of bananas beside
the female torso in de Chirico’s
The Uncertainty of the Poet?’
And one student says,
‘This is presumably the poet
uncertain how she can eat a banana
without a hand to pick it up,
or a mouth to put it in.’

The problem with Surrealism
is how much more surreal it can get
the more you tease it out,
therefore those art commentators
are wise who remain deadpan:
‘What we see here,’ I say,
‘is the unexpected juxtaposition
of a twisted classical female torso
and a bunch of bananas.’

And another student asks:
‘Why are there trains in the background?’

‘De Chirico always has trains in the background.
It’s kind of his signature.’

The other problem with Surrealism
is that it's not confined to art.
‘Why,’ I ask, ‘is there a big bunch
of shamrock in the Taoiseach's bowl?’
And a promising student says:
‘This is the unexpected juxtaposition
of a bellicose American President
and a bowl of shamrock in the hands
of an abject Irish Prime Minister.
Here the classical and renaissance sense
of calm, balance and harmony
is distorted to make the scene
more sinister and disturbing.’

‘Good, good, very good, excellent!
And why are there planes in the background?’

‘The President always has planes in the background.
It’s kind of his signature.’