'The Confession'

by Ronan McCarthy

Last night, six men came to my door,
Two I knew, the rest I’d never seen before.

They brandished rifles, as lightning struck,
I saw their faces, covered in muck.

But I wasn’t scared,
I feared not that they’d do me harm.
In fact, I welcomed them with open arms.

‘Johnny!’, I said. ‘How’s life?’ Micky,
Give my congratulations to your new wife.’

They introduced me to their little group,
I had my housekeeper make them some soup.

Once they were finished,
I said a short mass,
All took Communion,
Save for the last.

As I offered to him what was no longer bread,
He sighed forlornly, and shook his head.

After the service, all felt well.
And my, had they a story to tell!

‘You should have seen us, Father!’
Old Johnny said.
As he talked of their fight with the
Auxiliaries, all of whom are now dead.

All of them laughed, all of them cheered!
Except one who sat quietly,
Trembling with fear.

He was a young lad, nineteen at most,
The same who’d refused the most
Blessed host.

I walked to him, on his should placed my
hand. To reassure him, let him know
I understand.

He followed me to the kitchen,
Where we could be alone.
I put the kettle on, to make him feel at

I sat down, he put his mouth to my ear.
A confession he wanted no one to hear.

‘Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.
It’s been eight weeks since my last
Confession. Oh God – I can’t – ‘
‘It’s alright, go on my son.’

‘I killed a man, Father. An Irishman!
My best friend, my oldest friend!
My cousin, my mother’s sister’s son.’

I…was taken aback.
I didn’t understand. How could this young,
Innocent boy have family blood on his hands?!

‘How? Why?’

‘He…He was captured. And we gave them information.
We broke him out before last week.
He admitted it at once. I saw it on his face.
He was so ashamed.
Me and the lads, we argued over it for hours!
But in the end we decided
It had to be done.
So I…oh no! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!
I shot him in the back of the head!
He didn’t even get to say his prayers!
My best friend…’

I hadn’t the words to express what I felt at that time,
What to make of it was more mysterious
Than the Holy Bread and Wine!

I knew in the coming days,
I would replay this moment again and again,
But for now, all I could utter was:
‘Ego te absolvo i nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti,

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at Bantry Literary Festival in July 2023. The workshops were led by writer Thomas McCarthy.