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.