Just One Year Before

by Ronan McCarthy

When you asked me to be your Best Man,
Just one year before,
Did you know it would come to this?
Just one year before?

The page is presented before you,
All the words are there,
Typed out, neatly, save one space,
One line at the end.

You touch the soft cream-coloured page,
A shudder goes down your spine.
You couldn’t have imagined doing this,
Just one year before.

You remembered that day quite fondly
The music, the drink, the merriment!

My speech where I gave a toast
To you, your wife, and many years of

Such a memory should taste so sweet!
No longer as you sign your name,
It has dried up. Gone sour.

Your hand trembles, the black ink spills.
You damn yourself.
You request another copy of the form.

You weep as you begin to sign again,
In your mind you hear the gunshots,
You see the blood gush from my temple,
You think, ‘Is this really how it ends?’
‘We were so happy, all was well!’
‘Just one year before.’

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at Bantry Literary Festival in July 2023. The workshops were led by writer Thomas McCarthy.

Inspired by the Sepia photograph of the wedding party at the marriage of Kevin O’Higgins and Brigid Cole. Collection: Papers of Kevin O’Higgins. Reference: P197/183 Archive: UCD Archives