How can I say I’m proud of you, Jack?
– I’m not even sure it’s your name.
My mother said you fled to Canada after the war,
like others in the R.I.C. That you never returned,
sent money every Christmas.
She never said where in Canada – – I don’t think
she knew, but sometimes I conjure a cold beyond belief,
treacherous road in Calgary,
no turf-fires, no county finals, no ceilidhs.
Now, a century later, the country is prodding
the corpse of the past, hunting the shadows
for clues; a medal, a pistol, a newspaper clipping
– something to ease the ache of a question,
Who gave the order?
What did they do?
I have no picture of you, Jack, in your rifle-green tunic,
chevron low on the sleeve, but stumbled on one
of an officer receiving his commission
from Minister Aiken in 1938
– My mother explained it was your nephew,
said he had your eyes,
your easy way with people.
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.