A Family in Ireland

Water tumbling down Torc's cascades

Ambling under the Bridge of Weir,

Parting from Muckross for the Lower Lake,

And underfoot to a surprising bog.

Moisture suspended in cloudy skies

Long enough to complete a walk

And be sprinkled together with filtered showers

In the bond of family fun.


From the ancient Yew of Muckross Abbey,

Forest floor pine-cones and dried out holly,

Firewood collected for a blazing hearth.

The boughs of oaks creak in agony

Under rhododendron advance

Locked in ecological battle.

We too destroyed to preserve ourselves

Together round this Irish cottage fire.


Light glinting off the Eagle's Nest

Snow clad to mirror the sunlight's glory.

Sunbeams streaking through clouds of grey

Striking the Upper Lake in twinkling joy.

But the rays follow and focus on the family

Frolicking together on the lakeshore rocks

Before the lakeland cottage lights

Draw them home for nights together.


Deserted Slea Head's monastic beehives,

Calarus Oratory's upturned boat,

A Franciscan Friary ruined for centuries welcoming prayer

A village church packed for mass,

Genuflecting sinners confessing in a red-light box

While the family sits pewbound

In quiet contemplation together

With its own thoughts on a style of worship.


Tossing the waves of the Irish Sea

Clutching St Brendan's bags,

Then circuit-driving with a novice behind the wheel

Or skipping in steps of twos and threes,

A jaunting cart jogs on the sound of horse-shoes

And the family are together, not scattered

By centrifugal forces that could easily drive apart

Even as they walk the trail through the mossy woods


Oil-consuming, petrol-drinking,

Rusty and flooding through the floor;

Heating adjustments greasily underneath,

Top speed to the Irish limit,

With ninety-nine thousand miles of family

Bluebell herself is part of this family

Safely belted together, each in his place

As the car decides which unposted way to take.


Wholemeal bread and free-range eggs,

Dehydrated mince and congealed spaghetti,

Half-baked potatoes and a ninety minute grill

Soda-bread exploding into indigestion.

Oranges for boys - apples for girls,

And all of these eaten just to lighten a load

As the family gathers round the cottage table

Saying grace - and that we are together.


A pregnant ewe bucks promontory fort invaders,

Lambs bleat just two hours old.

Kerry cattle ignore their elderly herders,

A rabbit scurries from inquisitive eyes.

A mountain goat lies dead below the road

And the family share grief the flock must have known

And find identity beyond themselves

With a living world in which they share.


They meet a myopic Celt at five ways

Directing traffic following the wrong roads

And smile at an accent and language hardly understood

And see a blank expression in mirrored reply.

An accordion-playing peasant - a tweed-clad farmer

Retired from cows and milking,

Patiently waiting to unbolt the doors

To those who'll process fourteen stations of their cross.


They are bonded to an even greater family

Stood around a roadside cross

Far beyond Irish myth, deep into history

As present experience evokes earlier recollection:

Ancestry, parentage, friends and places known

Bound in memories that echo stereophonically

And reflect a growing togetherness

Even though the future be apart.


April 1986