By John McGrath
It’s peaceful here.
The deer come down at dawn
to graze on funeral flowers.
Sometimes when the wind sings
I hear the voices of the old ones
Calling to each other
across fields and ditches.
Bridget and Tom,
Delia, Pa and the others,
Busy with hay in Mayo,
racing to beat the rain.
They speak to me
when the sun is warm
on the strong green grass above me.
Great weather for hay in Colorado,
warm blue skies and never a cloud,
no rain to wash the gravestones,
only the soft sounds of summer
and the singing of the breeze
in the cottonwood trees.
My first wife sleeps beside me.
My last love visits in the cool of evening.
She likes to sit and help me reminisce
on people and on places that I knew
before we met. She stays ‘til sunset,
kisses the granite when she goes.
Last week she brought a visitor,
my brother’s boy from Ireland.
We talked a while
of neighbours and of places we both shared,
of cool spring wells and whitewashed cottages
where he and I were reared but never met.
He found a smooth glass pebble by the gate
when they were leaving. Just one of many,
like the teardrops in this place.
Picked it up, weighed it in his palm,
dropped it in his pocket.
I saw him nod as he looked back
and knew that he would do
what must be done
to close the circle.
It’s peaceful here; no deer, no funeral flowers.
Only a pebble by a ruined door
And everywhere the ripple of the rain.
© July to October 2012 John McGrath
Here is one of two poems about my uncles, wanderers both.
My twin uncles Paddy and Austin were both raised in our tiny
cottage in Cullatinny a generation before me. They had little in
the way of formal education and farmed a few meager acres with
my grandfather before emigrating (around 1950), first to England and
then across the Atlantic, Austin to Alberta and Paddy to New York.
Paddy was drafted almost as soon as he arrived in the U.S. and did
one tour of duty in Korea and three in Vietnam. He completed his
education before leaving the army and went on to spend over 20 years
as a Highways Supervisor in the Colorado Rockies, not
far from Pike’s Peak. He is buried in Montrose, Colorado.
Austin worked in the coal mines in Nottinghamshire before heading
for Alberta intending to work in the Canadian oilfields. He
found digs in Canmore and fell in love with his landlady’s daughter,
Phyllis. Soon they were married and together they headed for where
the money and work took them. Oil was the new gold and they were
right there in the thick of it! Family tragedy brought them back to
Canmore however, and there they stayed. Austin went back
to coal mining and rose to the position of Mine Manager
I would have been about 2 years old when they left Ireland and only
knew of them as I grew up through the stories my neighbours
told of my legendary 6-feet-tall uncles! They would have
remained legends had I not had the good fortune however
to meet with each of them again in their later years. This poem and
"Dark Earth" are my gift
to them and part of our shared legacy.