by Diarmuid Cawley

The lord packed up for the last time—dividing things out—the hunt was over,

when the fighting stopped Our Lord stepped in to put shape on it.

The city lanes were busy, and the country lanes went quiet,

the lakes of the manors were full of coarse fish, eels, and the best trout

that the lord no longer fished.

Our Lord sent envoys, secrets in their pockets, 

confessions galore,

folks danced, told stories, played cards

but kept within the lines.


The rail-lines grew weeds and farms were small,

bacon was salty and tea was sweet—Our Lord said we were fair and pure.

The writers went to Paris and the poor went to England—

tunnels, dust, and emphysema; girls as housekeepers for the rich.

The House of Lords, no longer our lords, had packed up and gone

when their cities were burning—we sent rabbits, week-old and stinking,

the stars on country evenings, villages where simplicity was dished out

St. Brigid’s crosses, haycocks, and abuse.


The co-ops came, the milk grew out of the ground,

you dared not disagree, tow-the-line and nod,

lightening in august, snow at winter and then later frogspawn.

The odd murder, the odd accident, but mostly quiet

feast days and the calendar, Sunday sacrificed.

Rushes appeared in the fields—pine forests on the ridge,

a darker wasteland of broken empire,

the old brigadier lost his marbles, screaming 

in the night about the Pygmies he’d cut down in Africa,

the lords were still hunting then, the seas were rich with fish and absolution, 

work hard and try to forget, maybe even a knighthood.


The odd villager got away and crossed the fence, an almighty sin,

most just grumbled in the pubs, a few planted bombs in Belfast,

the lords and Our Lord watched on,

the journey from the village to London on the cattle boat

of dreams, the vomit, the fear, the cap in hand, Birmingham 

and on to Victoria, bags of beads and customs, pass them down,

the only culture besides buttermilk.


Ah mammy! Stop fussing, there’s enough sandwiches!

The men will be in a minute, wet the pot

the men, the men, they are afraid of the women, afraid to look

cat got their tongues, bellies of depression,

do not speak, the fields must not hear,

toothless maniacs for pints and daftness

the school master knocked the spirit out of them

manly punches to the faces of boys and the odd bit

of abuse, the lords and Our Lord had agreed to.


Many years later, when Obama came, 

I was in the Lord Edward having a pint

he was just down the street at Trinity, pretending to like us,

how we lapped it up, the Guinness was placed in his hand, 

we had arrived, and strangely, Our Lord had gone. 





Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem featured on the Poetry Jukebox installation in Galway from July-October 2023.