In a May Garden
Winner Cúirt New Writing Prize 2014
I catch a reflection in the patio window
while watering grass. My father
staring back at me, hose in hand.
Well who did you expect to see, your mother?
I go on watering. The shirt hangs loose
and crumpled over his belt,
just as he was when I was twelve.
His baby face looks up at me and takes me in.
I smile, and he smiles back.
You’re not as trim as I thought you’d be,
and almost as bald as me. ‘Not quite’ I say.
Quiet, are you still as quiet as then.
Remember down Gold Crop, you hardly talked to them.
‘Quieter than you I suppose.’ Era I was quiet too.
He turns to splatter the geraniums,
nasturtiums and gladioli.
I follow, he says, the pressures useless.
‘No ‘tis the hose, I bought the cheap one.’
Well that’s no surprise, he laughs.
You must be well proud, you’ve achieved a lot.
‘No more than you. Three kids to your five.’
Ah kids, that’s what it’s all about.
I see his grey big boisterous head,
pulling up weeds along the edge.
You made a nice job of that patio.
‘The wife,’ I call back ‘she drives the work.’
Does anything change? Still how bad,
to be out gardening in the summer.
Do you put much into it?
‘Only a shadow of what you did.’
Still you have more time now,
out of work and all that.
I don’t respond, but peek
another look at him discreetly,
down on his knees,
awkwardly plucking the border,
his stubby fingers,
the hose head soaking his pants.
The hand’s the finest hoe, he says.
Maybe if I’d realised
that’s how I’d turn out
I could have planned.
You never thought me smart, says he,
as if he hears me think.
‘Now that’s not fair,’ I retort,
facing him down, through triple glaze.
And look, you were right.
I turn my back and move off to the veg,
Sprinkling the carrots copiously,
the strain gone off the hose.
Walking back later I see him just once more,
smiling to himself in slanting sunlight,
a happy thinker.
‘I have to go now’ I say, turning away.
Go on, says he.
I’m finishing up myself anyway.
Tell them Scully sent you.
Small Wonders Anthology
Dedalus Press 2021
in front of
me on the
path, a young
plumage, corn yellow beak, its talons
gripping a bloodied pigeon, snagged in the
fence. He tries to fly, dragged down
by the weight
he will not
The Big Snow
First published, Crannóg 55, 2021
Do you remember the Big Snow, I ask?
You remember all of them.
horses pull coffins over frozen ground,
two weeks before a man can be buried,
the wells frozen, the army tied to barracks
while the turf ran out.
You’re at typing school, Miss Lombards.
Making your way up Patrick’s Hill.
Your father’s socks pulled over patent pumps,
digging your heels into the ice.
Shorthand copy squeezed under your arm,
dreaming of your first job.
ESB men out on the pylons,
soldiers deliver water off the back of trucks,
the Commons Road, a hundred meter ski slope
for fertiliser bags and school sacks.
You keep your youngest home,
a housewife twenty years, you hold the house
while we’re off playing.
The mobile grocery van arrives
through heavy drifts with spuds and sausages,
your saviour from Fair Hill.
And then the last, 2018.
Schools closed for five days. No bread.
Queues for wine outside the service station.
You phone to tell us ‘Stay indoors, don't cross the city.
The roads are treacherous, cars abandoned,
a child was killed in a fall in Farranree.
’Tis worse than forty seven.’
You’re nearly ninety, your peers are dead,
you won’t see weather like this again.
The slushy mountains thaw to black
along the road side.