Today that voice fell silent
in the small farmhouse
where he brought his bride
some sixty years ago or more.
A son and daughter grown and gone,
ewes to lamb, a cow for the house
on the small hill farm,
the centre of his universe
that stretched no more than twenty miles
in all his ninety years.
The kitchen: table, chairs, a dresser,
where he sat beside the range
winter and summer in wellingtons,
regaling callers with stories of time past
when he ploughed his piece of arable with horses,
did all by hand; got by.
Left school at fourteen, with fitful attendance
at haying, lambing or other work to do.
Yet he spoke an unaffected language
of Old English and Irish idiom
in beautifully crafted sentences.
No record left but in the memory.
In time all will be lost
of his unselfconscious artistry with words.
For Paddy Finn
The first time my wife and I climbed Lugnaquilla
We made love on the summit.
We had to do something to celebrate,
And we hadn’t brought anything else with us.
Since Lugnaquilla is a public place,
This was technically an act of gross indecency,
But, as there was no one else there
It was entirely private.
If the local Guard had been present,
After he had recovered
He’d have had to arrest us.
Can you imagine the journey down the mountain,
Especially as the local Guard
Is over sixty and extremely unfit?
In court he would stand up and say;
‘Your honour, On Monday the 24th September 1990
At four thirty in the afternoon
On top of Lugnaquilla I observed…..’
The judge would stop him and say to the defendants:
‘How do you plead?’
We would say: ‘Guilty your honour;’
He would then say: ‘How old are you?’
We would reply: ‘65 and 66 respectively,’
He would then say:
‘I find you guilty on a technicality,
But on account of your age
I recommend a citation from the President’.
THE ASCENT OF MAN
He looked up to the window of my bedroom,
he took out the ladder from my shed,
he climbed up to the outside of my window,
and ended up beside me in my bed.
HIS GRACE OF TUAM
The last Protestant Archbishop of Tuam
was a closet transvestite.
That is the last one ever,
since the Archbishopric was abolished
by some synod or other in the 19th century.
Not that he dressed in a cupboard,
but in the vestry of his private chapel,
which was nothing if not appropriate.
His wife missed things from time to time,
but blamed the servants.
So he kept his secret until late into his senility,
when one morning at early communion,
he arrived on the altar, as they say,
wearing a green ballgown, complete with bustle,
and sporting a fan.
Entirely unaware of the inappropriateness of his dress,
he proceeded to celebrate the Holy Mysteries
for his assembled staff, inside and out.
Before he passed the Lord’s Prayer
from the preparation of the Old Sarum Rite,
his butler dismissed the others and approached the Archbishop,
who said in anticipation: ‘Thank you, Hynes;
I’ve just realised I’m incorrectly dressed.
Since this is the season of Pentecost
I should be wearing white.’
Old Judd lied.
Everyone knew he lied
but they loved his stories,
so no one said:
‘I don’t believe you, Judd,’
but nobody knew where
truth and fantasy met,
not even Judd.
An enclave of entrepreneurs,
Captains of industry,
Retired to sand and sea
From whence they emerged
Billions of years ago.
Had they known then
How it would all turn out,
They might well have
Gone back to the ocean,
And saved us all the trouble.