I sang all the songs in the garden:
‘Kevin Barry’ on the apple tree swing,
‘Bold Robert Emmet’ down by the henhouse,
Gleaned from the green pages of the Ireland’s Own,
A strange distraction for a lonely child.
Unaware that we hadn’t filled the rebel brigades:
No renegade aunts with guns in their petticoats,
Nor fired up uncles with secrets in their hearts.
My father’s father wouldn’t bow
And took his sons out of the fray.
Though the other granny had left the turnip fields
When the boss insulted Dev,
An empty table for her only daughter,
But her pride still intact.
My practical mother spat out the stories.
The headmaster would ask
‘What will you be, young chap?’
‘I want to die for Ireland, Sir’
Not in our house.
No proud republican past.
‘Pacifists – Ha!’
‘I’ll straighten that ditch yet.’
The house is still here.
But we paid.
How we paid!
Reproduced with kind permission of the author.
Teresa O’Mahony is a member of the Fatima Poetry Vigilantes. This poem was composed in a Poetry as Commemoration workshop led by Catherine Ann Cullen in July 2022.