Loose Talk

by Cathy Dalton

For Garda John Dalton

The fresh-faced guard from out of town

Came knocking to blank stares.

To a woman and a man,

They held out to his face 

Their stone-walled silence.

The culprit fled the country with his sins –

An unclean getaway.


In the dark confessional cool,

Old men talk all day 

Among themselves; a small girl sits

Snug by her grandad’s side,

Lips sealed with Lucozade.

Beyond the open door, she sees

Sun shining on the green.

At home her granny waits


Later on, we beetled back 

Across the summer county.

Long shadows lay

Beneath the cooling hedgerows.

Cow-parsley lit our way

Still light, but late for tea.



I spilled the beans,

gave the game away.


I never understood her rage 

At this smallest of sins.

For years I thought it was the drink

But looking back it seems

It was long-buried fear

Of what might yet befall her man,

Held hostage in the unknown country

Of his past. 


The author’s grandfather, Garda John Dalton, was first posted in Co. Kilkenny, in the wake of the only killing of a Garda during the Civil War.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in a Poetry as Commemoration workshop led by Mary O’Donnell in Kilkenny Library on March 8th 2023.