after fifty long years…


  • Up Scottish hills, automatic car gears,
    I remember my mother very much in tears
    – that was our last ever family holiday
    binding ties unwound, hems began to fray.

    When I asked about maternal bitter tears,
    secrets were told beyond pubescent years;
    the sacrificial lambs lay patiently on altar
    – did I find out about fracturing before father?

    Armstrong optimistic about a ‘wonderful world’
    this boy’s soul shut down, embryonically curled;
    edited say-cheese smiles, family photos torn in two,
    off to boarding school, my best choice too.

    House masters became my proxy parents,
    my defiance challenged their forbearance;
    this delinquent easily earned weekly detention,
    punitive actions didn’t trigger much prevention.

    Father little seen, fault-lines yawned wide,
    how did kindred cloth get woven, deeply dyed;
    lengthy warp lined, days to patiently prepare,
    weft shuttles macho-powered, forgotten any prayer.

    After fifty long years our small family survives,
    forgiveness and expansion keeps it vibrantly alive;
    some near the finish line, baton long since passed
    others just started sprinting, catching up so fast.


    Photo: Irish Times article 1964


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