Thursday, 4 January 2018

In my mother's house

In dirt of blue-grey modelling clay
Where Sapien is Homo and happy is gay
That’s where the sergeant’s son tottered to walk
With mother of headline, ruler and chalk.
Overarching boughs of green, cloisters of the lane,
Divided sparse fields, every mearing a drain.
With fences of thorn, of black and of haw,
And ruts in those lanes that sun never saw.
That’s where I would leave, come back to settle,
At one with the lakelander, heron and nettle.
Rutted lanes and lost lanes, blending in stride,
On penance-path to school, drinking pool beside.
Monica and Rosaline, conspired to spoil,
Margaret was the silent one,
Sometimes when he wasn’t awake
I played with father’s hidden gun.
Mother aped her own face in all,
To look at; there was only the brighter side,
For schools inspectors, richer neighbours,
And gaping gaps built by divide.

My father was hardly a father at all
I still don’t know what a father was,
His answer to why things were as they were
The always same; because, because.
We were holy in a pious way
Hymns and psalms were always sung,
And chanted like the Hairy Christians
When Angelus bell stuck out her tongue.
All our prayers were mechanical
Like the singing of ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’
Before the throw-in at Bishops Park
The players mouthing like goldfish green.
She taught me numbers one by one
An abacus made from her beads,
She said ‘the world survives on mouthfuls
And mouthfuls come from seeds’. 

In the lane I counted her fingers,
I counted from thumb to ten,
A finger for every year of my life,
Never counted her fingers again

(Dedicated to John McGahern, the greatest wordsmith of them all!)


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