Paddy in the Shed

by Fred Johnston

Paddy’s gone into the shed again
Shivering from his war
He fell down the stairs in Gardiner Street
And died behind the door

My grand-uncle was a dapper lad
Even in later years
A handkerchief in the breast pocket
He was fond of his few beers

He’d had a few when he tumbled
Down the tenement stairs
He’d survived his war and made it home
But he fought on for fifty years

I was a raw teenager when
The same age, more or less
He’d scuttled off to Flanders fields
On the Kitchener Express

He had great yarns of courage
And a few about losing your nerve
And one of a young lad tied to a post
And shot for refusing to serve

He rode on a two-horse and limber
And one day while standing at ease
Came the whack of an Albrecht mortar
And blew one horse into the trees

My Granny would tell him to shut it
His stories were gory and rough
Too nasty and brutal and bloody by far
For young lads to hear, shocking stuff

As if we didn’t see him
Shivering in the back yard shed
When he reckoned that no one would miss him
If he popped out to chat with the dead.

Born in Belfast in 1951, Fred Johnston is the author of several collections of poetry and novels. He is a co-founder, with Peter Sheridan and Neil Jordan, of the Irish Writers’ Co-operative and helped found Cúirt Literature Festival in Galway.  His collections are Measuring Angles (1993), True North (1997), Being Anywhere: New & Selected Poems (2001). Johnston’s novels include Atalanta (2000) and Mapping God/Le Tracé de Dieu (2003). He has received numerous awards, among them the Prix de l’Ambassade for translating Michel Martin and the Ireland Fund of Monaco Literary Bursary at the Princess Grace Irish Library in autumn 2004.