For Those of Us Who are Orphaned

The view across Dublin Bay from my mother’s house, where I grew up.

My late mother’s estate in Dublin is just about wrapped up, and the house is gone. My father died 20 years ago. I am in England now and the strings are severed. Lately I’ve been wondering about how all the worries and cares and adventures that went into those two lives just end, without fanfare.

I find myself repeating my father’s sayings and aphorisms, realising that to my children I am as boringly predictable in my speech as he was. (‘If you panic you’re lost’ he’d say). I also know that they in turn will probably repeat my figures of speech to their children.

All that remains of those two people are my memories, and the memories of others who knew them. Many times I’ve seen an old man who reminded me of my father, and the thought of them both in a grave in Glasnevin is a strange one.  In that spirit enjoy the following two poems, again by Patrick Kavanagh.


Memory of My Father

Every old man I see

Reminds me of my father

When he had fallen in love with death

One time when sheaves were gathered.

That man I saw in Gardner Street

Stumbled on the kerb was one,

He stared at me half-eyed,

I might have been his son.

And I remember the musician

Faltering over his fiddle

In Bayswater, London,

He too set me the riddle.

Every old man I see

In October-coloured weather

Seems to say to me: 
”I was once your father.”



In Memory of My Mother

I do not think of you lying in the wet clay

Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see

You walking down a lane among the poplars

On your way to the station, or happily

Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday -

You meet me and you say:

‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘

Among your earthiest words the angels stray.

And I think of you walking along a headland

Of green oats in June,

So full of repose, so rich with life -
 And I see us meeting at the end of a town

On a fair day by accident, after

The bargains are all made and we can walk

Together through the shops and stalls and markets

Free in the oriental streets of thought.

O you are not lying in the wet clay,

For it is a harvest evening now and we

Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight

And you smile up at us – eternally.


Patrick Kavanagh