My Grandfather’s glasses in a cracked leather case

by Siobhán Flynn

You hear stories of such things saving lives;
shrapnel embedded bibles, holed as far as the gospel,
holy medals insisted on by mothers, depressed by bullets.

My grandfather’s eyesight was good enough for war,
he had nothing to shield the muscle
of his left arm, shot out at Ypres, the glasses came later.

His souvenirs were silence, his sacrifice
unspeakable in a nation forged in his absence,
and his army issue puttees.

Useless in the sodden trenches, they served
to shield him from ticks in the fields,
prevented stones from infiltrating his boots.

One harvest night walking home up Windgates Hill
he was halted by a troop of Black and Tans,
instructed to make Ireland hell for rebels

they exceeded their employer’s expectations.
They had Lee Enfield rifles and a keen interest
in his reasons for being out at that hour.

As they questioned him one of them noticed
the material wound around his legs:
Where’d you get those puttees, Paddy?

Hand shaken, he was driven home in their lorry.
My father, me, my children, all of us, all of our lives,
as random as eyesight, as flimsy as a piece of cloth.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was published in Dreich Season 7 Issue 6 (No 78).

Siobhán Flynn is an award-winning poet from Dublin. Her work has been published in literary journals, in print and online, including The Irish Times, Dreich, The Poetry Bus, Amsterdam Quarterly and Skylight 47. One of her grandfathers served in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in World War I, the other in the I.R.A in the War of Independence.