by Darren Francis Caffrey
‘The Grandfather’ who worked in the army camp fixing cars
told of one with a mountain’s name which drove ‘The Big Fella’ to…
the flower’s mouth /
the mouth of the good land
where he was shot down (like enemy aircraft)
[…] / rat ˗ rat ˗ rat /
eyes and ears of radio men on the ground
— and the whistle of a whelp
There in that car a wish left in bloodied hands:
To pull up a Free State from sceach and gorse
leaf˗spring suspension carrying nineteen tonne and three men
armour plate and turret˗gun fit to the chassis of British Rolls Royce
redeployed across The Empire in zones of conflict:
Mesopotamia; Palestine; Ireland.
But away now from all the wars it ran
and unofficially landing in the workshop as ‘scrap’
Sliabh na Mban was restored and polished for history to shape
When his army career was up
my own grandfather opened a business
on a plot next to the barracks,
fixing cars that crashed
he applied what he’d learned.
His time on radios was classified… but enough to say
he studied German into his old age
and any time you’d visit
a dish was aimed at the window,
three televisions on the go
“Sprechen sie Deutsch”.
He never spoke of his wartime;
only sometimes mentioned what he shouldn’t
before microwaving sausages
and putting his teeth back in to talk
that he’d be understood.
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.