by Brian Kirk

My father cut the hedges, planted beds, stored fuel up for the winter months,
built fires in chilly waiting rooms. He didn’t say a lot, but when he spoke
you listened if you knew what was good for you. We arrived one by one, full

of promise, poor but well turned out, fed but always hungry for a taste
of something more. We didn’t lick it off the ground. Despite the well-kept
borders of his world, he indulged a dream of other ways of living, and daily

bought a ticket to a life on the far side of respectability. Horses and the football pools promised a way of getting by, but winning only came in small amounts
at lengthy intervals, so he put his shoulder to the wheel, gave up the drink,

cut back the fags, was frugal in every way, worked every day so that his children
had the chance he was denied, determined that his life would have some meaning by creating opportunities for us. He became an archetype of sorts, a poster boy

for Church and State united, a man only De Valera could have dreamed.
But we grew up and let him down. We craved different things, our childhoods spent
gazing out beyond the hedges that he trimmed, dreaming another kind of life

outside the fortress that he built from duty, faith, and love. The foundations
were unstable, the things he thought would last forever soon would crack: work and order couldn’t bear the weight. His kingdom didn’t last. No kingdom does.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem featured on the Poetry Jukebox installations in Limerick & Derry from May-July 2023.