2021 Winners’ Anthology
The Chrissie Nolan Award – Writing in English for Children and Young People
Caoimhe McNamara Moore, 5th class, Lisselton National School
Sadness is blue
It might make you need a tissue
When you say ‘boohoo’.
Anger is red
It melts my head
It makes me mad to feel so bad.
Tired is black
When I need a nap
I jump into bed and cover my head.
The Chrissie Nolan Award – Writing in Irish for Children and Young People
Nora Fitzsimons, Bromore, Ballybunion
Gach lá mar cath,
sos cogaidh gach oíche.
Corp is intinn gafa.
Agus fós –
táimid ag feitheamh.
Cluasa ag cuardach fuaim.
Súile ag lorg solas.
Gach uile fuaim mar an gcéanna.
Gach dath liath, lag, leamh.
Agus fós –
táimid ag feitheamh.
Amárach mar inniú mar inné,
i dtimthriall síoraí.
Splanc shaibhir sholais ag bun na spéire?
Ó! Múchtar arís é, imithe gan rian.
Agus fós –
ní féidir linn rud ar bith eile a dhéanamh
Ag seasamh ar ghaineamh athraitheacha,
i saol aistrithe,
gan fíor athrú ach an oiread.
Ní feidir anáil a tharraingt.
Tá an domhan
ag feitheamh freisin.
Daoine ag fáil bháis.
Daoine eile uaigneach, croíbhriste.
Ach fós –
fanaimid sa bhaile.
Sabháilte agus cráite,
Dúais Phádraig Liath Ó Conchubhair
Scríobhnóireacht na Daoine Fásta
Dáithí Ó Cíosáin
Máthair agus Leanbh
Tháinig an dochtúir isteach. Cuma profisiúnta air agus clipboard ina lámh. Gruaig liath agus súile tuirsiúla. Bhí banaltra ag a thaobh. Cuma seanmáthar uirthi cé nach raibh sí thar cúig bliana is fiche d’aois. D’fhéach na hothair eile ar an mbeirt mar ba lucht féachana iad agus ba imreoirí éinne nua nó foireann an oispidéil a tháinig isteach.
“A Nóra, seo é an t-uasal Ó Braonáin agus ba mhaith leis labhairt leat”, adúirt an bhanaltra agus tharraing sí an cuirtín timpeall ar an leaba.
“Conas ta tú ag braith inniu?” a dfhiafraigh an t-Uasal Ó Braonáin de Nóra ag ardú a chinn agus ag oscailt a shúile go geal. Níor thóg sé aon cheann dá fear céile a bhí cois na leapan. Ciúin agus reoite.
Tharraing Nóra anáil lag agus bhrúigh sí an freagra amach. “Ag stracadh liom, a dhochtúir ach ní gearánta dhom”.
Thóg sé timpeall trí nóiméad ar fad. An nuacht is measa. Ailse fillte ar ais agus ag leathnú amach óna brollach go dtí áiteanna eile ina corp feoite. Níos measa ná cúig bliana ó shin nuair a fuair sí an chéad nuacht go raibh ailse brollaigh aici. Radium agus piollaí agus gruaig caillte agus oicheanta fada nimhiúla idir dhúiseacht agus codladh ach bhí an t-ádh léi taréis trí bliana agus dúradh léi go raibh buaite aici ar an ngalar. Ach anois…ba thigh bothántaíochta a corp don mbithiúnach ailse.
Ní dúirt sí ach “go raibh maith agat, a dhochtúir”. Ní raibh aon deora fágtha aici. Lean an t-uasal Ó Braonáin ag caint. “Ach bíodh dóchas agat, a Nóra. Táimid chun tú a chur ar drip agus cúrsa leighis. Is iontach an méid daoine a bheireann bua ar an sort seo cháis. Tosóimid amárach. Tabharfaidh Síle anseo níos mó sonraí duit.”
Agus ansin bhí sé imithe, ag leathadh drochscéalta timpeall cosúil le feiirmeoir ag caitheamh síolta. Ach síolta gan fás…
Ag an am chéanna a bhí Nora af féachaint isteach sa cheo a bhí timpell uirthi nuair a d’imigh a fear abhaile, bhí Marty ag siúl suas staighrí an subway i Nua Eabhrach. Bhuail teas an thráthnóna é nuair a shroich sé an tsráid i Jackson Heights i Queens. Bhí sé ag cur allais cheana féin taréis bheith ag siúl is ag dreapadh staighrí sa subway. “Please stand clear of the closing doors” agus “Mind the gap” ag rith trína aigne. An guth chéanna gach aon lá agus na sluaite céanna. Brú agus teas agus deabhadh. Agus poll in áit éigin ina lár. Bhí an poll níos measa laethanta áirithe. Bhí sé beagnách as láthair laethanta eile. A pé ann nó as é, bhí an poll riamh ann.
Chas sé ar dheis thar na siopaí gnóthacha agus na caiféanna a bhí oscailte de ló is d’oíche. Gan éinne san árasán chun dinnéar a chur ós a chomhair. Heidi imithe uaidh le cúig bliana. D’fhág sí nóta ar oileán na cistine Aoine amháin ag rá go raibh sí ag imeacht “chun í féin a fháil”. Nach raibh tuilleadh le déanamh ag an mbeirt acu. Bhí fhios aici go dtuigfeadh sé. Slán gan teacht tar ais. Buille ó chasúr an tsaoil.
Anois chas sé isteach sa Shamrock Bar mar a dhein sé gach tráthnóna Dé Chéadaoin agus Aoine taréis a lá oibre sa leabharlann i Sráid Chambers. Shuigh sé sa chúinne lena bheoir agus rinne sé an rud a chur suaimhneas ar a chroí. Féachaint ar dhaoine ag teacht agus ag imeacht. People watching. Níor thóg sé aon chenn de na daoine a bhí ina suí mar bhí sé sin ró dhainséarach. Ná stán ar éinne a bhí suite nó seasta. Féach ar na daoine atá ag gluaiseacht. Bhi teachtaireacht ina súile sin, sort script ina ngeáitsí, scéalta ina ngluaiseacht, rún éigin ina siúl. Dfhéadfadh sé uair a chaitheamh mar sin. Níos fearr ná breathnú ar an teilifís! Nua Eabhrach ag cur seó beó os a chomhair amach ar stáitse na beatha.
Tuigeadh dó go minic gur thuig sé cuid de na stráinséirí sin níos fearr ná mar a thuig se é féin. Thosaigh an mearbhall sin an lá a fuair a mháthair bás. Bliain ó shin. Bhí a athair imithe cúig bliana roimpi. Ach dúirt a mháthair rud éigin leis lá amháin: “Tá rud beag agam le hinsint duit amárach, a Mharty”, adúirt sí ag casacht. “Amárach beidh mé níos fearr. Nósfaidh mé duit é ansin…”
Amárach bhí sí imithe ar shlí na fírinne nuair a chuaigh sé isteach sa tseomra. Rún éigin imithe léi go tír na síoraíochta. Abairt éigin nach bhfaigheadh sciatháin choíche.
Ag am am chéanna is a bhí Marty sa Shamrock Bar, bhí Nóra ag gluaiseacht siar go tír na n-óg trí mhí;e mile trasna an Atlantaigh. Mar a dhéanann daoine fé leigheas throm go minic. Bhí sí ar ais i mBaile na dTonn tráthnóna Domhnaigh. Mí Iúil. Ag siúl síos an tsráid gnóthach le beirt chara. Gúnaí polkadot orthu and sciatháin ar a gcosa. Sciatháin ar a gcroíthe. An baile samhraidh ag dordán le beocht. Boladh cúmhra na hoíche i ngach áit. Púdar, oráistí, leann dubh ó na pubanna. Boladh na farraige fós san aer. Solas i súile na gcailíní agus dóchas in súile na mbuachaillí. Teas an lae fós ina dtimpeall, cuid acu taréis lá fada a chaitheamh ar an dtrá. Cuid eile tagtha ón móinéar taréis cocaí féir a ardú fé spéir an tsamhraidh.
Chríochnaigh Nóra a chuid oibre sa siopa ag a dó an lá céanna. Leath-lá ar an nDomhnach ach gach lá eile ag obair. Ag cócaireacht agus ag glanadh agus ag cóiriú leapacha. A céad phost ag seacht mbliana déag. Punt in aghaidh na seachtaine agus a béilí freisin. Níor ghearánta di. Bhí an baile ceolmhar agus gnóthach agus uaireanta bhí sí ag obair taobh thiar den gcúntar agus ag bualadh le daoine. Buachaillí ag caitheamh súile chuichí. Taibhreamh aici dul go Sasana i gceann bliana. Bothar beatha ag leathnú amach roimpi.
Bhí dhá halla rince i mBaile na dTonn agus slua mór ag dul isteach sa dhá cheann an oíche sin. Josef Locke ag canadh i gceann amháin agus Mick Delahunty sa Ballerina. Ba é an Ballerina a ceann scribe an oíche sin maraon lena cáirde.
Agus ansin an banna ag seinm agus an chéad damhsa agus an buachaill sin a bhí léi le cúpla deiradh seachtaine anois. A lámha timpeall ar a com sa tsean-waltz. Caint bhog chomh milis le mil. Ardú croí agus sceitimíní ag ardú sa bholg. Taise ag fás thíos agus é ag brú isteach ina lár agus a croí ar mire. Dhá chroí ar mire. Suí síos leis agus buidéal Nash’s agus siúl cois trá ar an ngaineamh. Sea, bhí an gaineamh te fós taréis lá iontach gréine. Suí ansin agus a beola clúdaithe ag a bheola-san. Blas fir. Focail bhoga agus lámh ar a brollach. Lámh eile ag gluaiseacht idir a cosa agus ag méarnáil agus taise agus n’fheadar agus cad tá ag tarlú agus dhá chorp ar seachrán. Beirt photadóirí ag múnlú píosa ealaíne. Múnlú a d’athreodh dhá saol. Ba chuimhin léi pian géar gearr agus osna ón mbuachaill. Siúl ar ais suas an baile fé amhras agus fé dhraíocht. Mearbhall ag seoladh agus ag trá sa cheann. Geallúintí agus feicfidh mé tú an tseachtain seo chugainn…
Na laethanta dorcha ansin. Dochtúir, an sagart paróiste agus ansin an bus go Luimneach. Isteach go clainn i dtigh mór, í mar sclábhaí acu agus a corp ag méadú. Laethanta agus oícheanta gan Dia gan duine. Ciontach agus caillte ina croí féin. A tuistí ag ceapadh go raibh sí ag obair i siopa mór. Mná rialta agus lá na breithe agus leanbh ag screadaíl. Leanbh iontach. Ach foirmeacha agus síniú agus an leanbh imithe an lá ina dhiaidh sin. Mná rialta ag féachaint uirthi amhail is dá mba mhuc í.
Seachtainí, míonna, blianta folmha ansin. Tromluí istoíche agus ligint uirthi go raibh gach rud ar fheabhas de ló. An bád go Sasana agus obair agus saoirse. Fear maith ag rince oíche amháin san Irish Club. Geallta. Foirm eile le líonadh le ordú ón sagart paróiste i mBaile na dTonn. Foirm le líonadh i Luimneach ag deimhniú nach ndéanfadh sí cumarsáid lena leanbh choíche. Foirm eile a bhris a croí ach ní raibh aon rogha aici. Shínigh sí chun go mbeadh ar a cumas a fear a phósadh. Chun go mbeadh saol nua aici. Laethanta meala ansin lena fear céile. Builleadh eile níos déanaí nuair a fuair sí amach nach mbeadh sí in ann aon leanbh eile a thabhairt ar an saol. Ní raibh leigheas ar an gcathú ach é a mharu le foighne, mar a dúirt Peig Sayers. Agus mhair sí agus a fear chomh maith agus a bhí ar a gcumas. Agus ansin, bhraith sí rud éigin ina brollach. Címó. Agus ansin, an dara huair.
Anois, san ospidéal seo, bhí morfín ag soladh trína cuislí. Scamaill agus grian ag iomrascáil inti. Dia na sagart ligthe chun siúil tamall fada ó shin. Dia ns ndaoine léi uaoreanta. Pictiuirí dathacha ag briseadh agus ag scinneadh thairsti. Píosai gloine briste ag séideadh san aer. Sreang na beatha ag síneadh amach uaithí. Go tobann chuir sí a dá lámh suas chomh fada agus ab’fhéidir léi agus d’éirigh liú, lag i dtosach ach ag neartú de réir a chéile. “A stór, a ghrá, a mhic de mo bhroin (casacht bheag)…pé áit a bhfuil tú…tá brón orm…ach tar chugham, impím ort, tar chugham…”
Sa Shamrock Bar, bhí súile Mharty chomh trom le luaidhe anois. Tuigeadh dó go raibh sé ag stánadh ar an dtalamh le tamall. Abhaile! Ag an nóiméad díreach nuair a bhí se ag iarraidh a chosa a chur faoí go támáilte, thit ciúnas sa bhár. Is dócha go raibh gach rud ráite ag gach éinne a bhí fós ag ól. Tríd an gciúnas, chuala sé an teilifís. Guth nuachtóra ag teacht ó CNN… “…and across the Atlantic comes news of scandal in Ireland. Mother and baby homes going back generations are being investigated. Allegations of babies being adopted by Americans without the consent of their mothers…”
Shuigh Marty síos arís. Ní raibh fhios aige cén fáth i gceart…Fós.
“Hé, barman, árdaigh an teilifís beagán, le do thoil…”
The James Award – New Award for Writers Aged 75 and Over
Mike Gallagher, Renagown
I remember the first time I travelled this route. Then, more than fifteen years after the end of the war, Old Kent Road still looked like a bomb site. It was dominated by the gasworks, scattered buddleia bushes, derelict shells, council estates and lively pubs.
Today, from the top deck, I note that The World Turned Upside Down is a pizza takeaway, The Dun Cow is a doctor’s surgery and The Duke of Kent, for God’s sake, is a mosque. No surprise, then, that, on reaching my target, I find that The Thomas A’Beckett is a Vietnamese restaurant. Still, all things change. I have just become a grandfather myself.
It was so different that first time. Spruced up to the nines in my silver lamé shirt and drainpipe trousers, I nearly broke the bar door down in my eagerness to see her again. It had only been a few hours since we first met, sitting next to each other on the top deck of a number 45. Oh, there were other available seats, but none of them had a pair of mini-skirted thighs like these on display. She told me she liked my Irish accent, I told her I liked her dropped aitches. Somewhere around Camberwell Green, I asked her out. She said she was going to a party that night but I was welcome to come along. We could meet beforehand in The Thomas A’Beckett.
She is already in the saloon bar. She has brought a mate along. I am good at hiding my feelings, ask them what they want to drink? Brandy and Babycham and a Tekeela Sunrise for Sally. I gulp; notice the correct spelling as the barman fills the drink. I realise that I still don’t know her name though we’re practically engaged. It’s Elaine. We’re just going to say Hello to a couple of friends, she says and they sashay off through the gathering crowd. I gawk around, lost. I spot the glass cabinet display with the red boxing gloves; sidle over. THE GLOVES THAT DID NOT SPLIT, the plaque reads. There is a Cockney at my shoulder. Tells me the story about how Angelo Dundee had used a razor on Cassius Clay’s gloves to delay the start of the next round when Henry Cooper had knocked him out at the end of the fourth. Our ‘Enry trains in the gym upstairs, y’know. ‘E wuz suckered, cheated out of World Champion, ‘e wuz. The girls are back. Empty glasses. Never mind; there will surely be lashings of free drink at the party.
Wasn’t it only a couple of months ago that Packy O’Rourke was telling us how the girls in London used queue up outside the cinema to be taken to the pictures. Packy was the first of our gang to leave the village and we were hanging around after Confessions, listening to him spouting on about this free love lark. I had doubted him at the time but my faith in him was growing stronger by the vodka.
Another couple of rounds and I’m having a sneaky check in my wallet while the girls continue to mingle among the quiffs and ducktails, the beehives and pixie cuts. I am well into next week’s rent. When they come back, more tempting than ever in their miniskirts and go-go boots, I enquire casually about the party. Oh, we’ll be going shortly. As soon as the boys turn up. Boys? Our boyfriends. They’re sparring upstairs. Can’t keep them away from the gym! Still, we love how it keeps them fit, ha-ha.
The toilets share an exit corridor with the public bar. Everyone in there has a crew cut.
I stagger on towards Elephant and Castle, those winklepickers killing me.
Adult Short Story – Quiet Man Maurice Walsh Award
David Butler, County Wicklow
I knew the minute I heard a body’d been found up beyond in Graiguecullen it was Ruby done it. I knew as sure as if he’d told me he was planning it. Which he pretty much did, one way of looking at it. That’s what has me in the bind I’m in.
He come out to me there about a week back it was. Sure I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the fucker in months. Was a time you wouldn’t of seen one of us propping up The Pikeman or Bridge Tavern without the other was there too. But that was before I took the crack to the skull in the county final we lost to the Crokes. Fractured my eye-socket so it did, and the next thing the eye gets infected. After they took the eye I was never any use at judging the flight and dip of the sliotar. So that was that, game over for muggins here. Things went belly-up with Trish then, too, and the worst I can say on that subject is it was my own stupid fault on account of I spent the next six months sulking and taking it out on her till she’d had enough and broke off the engagement. Course then the following year they went on and won the county final, the feckers. Which was alright, I was happy for them. Genuinely I was. Only Ruby now being captain, it was him as’d be filling the trophy with punch and making the speeches and quips that by rights I’d of been making if it hadn’t of been for Stumpy Corrigan’s dirty pull that cost me a lot more than the county final so it did.
All that happened a long time ago and it’s old history now and I wouldn’t be bringing it up only it’ll give an idea how surprised I was to hear Ruby Reilly’s boy-racer gunning into the yard there last Tuesday week. ‘Howya, head,’ he goes with a big stupid grin on the cunt as if the seven years in between had never happened and he hadn’t married Trish Kelleher. ‘Still swinging the devil by the tail?’ he goes, but I could tell how shook he was underneath by the palsied fingers dropping the car-keys and how his eyes flitted about the farm and wouldn’t settle on my one eye. ‘What has you out this way?’ I ask all business-like, no intention of making things easy for the bollox. ‘Can’t a man drop out anymore for a social call or what the hell way is the country gone at all?’ and we might of gone on talking shite all evening only his phone plinked and I seen him flinch when he seen who the message was from. Then at last he looks at me and says, ‘look-it Patch, we need to talk, can we go somewhere?’ I was back living at home this long time, and he didn’t want the oul wan earwigging on whatever it was he had to tell me. ‘Will we go for a sneaky one?’ says I for I’ve a quare thirst on me these days. ‘I’d as soon go for a walk,’ says he, and I knew then it was a serious business had brung him out. I wish to God now I told him where he could go with his serious business but there we are, with hindsight as the fella says.
Long story short, he’d got himself in with this quare wan up beyond in Graigue. Things hadn’t been going so well with Trish, not since his oul fella’s business went tits-up last March. They were God knows how many months behind on the mortgage repayments. He has a bit of a temper on him, Ruby, and the dogs on the street knew Trish was living back with her people out in Leighlinbridge. Now I should say, by the time Ruby Reilly and Trish Kelleher got hitched a couple of years back, I was well over her. If I didn’t go to wedding itself, it wasn’t because I wasn’t invited. It was that I’d gone off the rails drinking at the time and I’d of probably made a show of myself once the demon drink got a hold because one thing I’ll say, whether it’s on account of the PTSD or whatever they do call it, after losing the eye the drink does send me into a dark place an odd time. Which is why I’m barred out of The Pikeman. Which is saying something.
So Ruby tells me this quare wan from beyond in the Graigue is ringing and texting him ever since, and won’t leave him alone. ‘Ever since what?’ says I and the squint he throws me is as much as to say wouldya cop onto yourself you know well what. So then I ask him what was he thinking, getting involved with some brasser in the first place because one thing I’ll say for Trish Kelleher, she never lost it. If I wasn’t jealous of the bollox marrying her, it’s only because I’ve always wanted the pure best for Trish. I couldn’t of stood the idea she might of gone through with marrying me on account of she felt sorry for me losing the eye and everything.
Like I say I can be my own worst enemy.
‘Look-it, Patch. My head was all over the shop. Trish and myself was after having this big bust-up. Not just on account of the mortgage either, that’s all I can say on the subject. Then she gets on her high horse and moves back in with her folks up in Leighlinbridge. So I’m out one night in The Dungeon acting the eejit with a few of the lads and I’ve a feed of drink on me, and outside having a smoke this oul wan starts giving me the sympathetic ear and I dunno what devil got into me Patch I swear to God I don’t I mean she’s no spring chicken, anything but, but the next thing I’m back in her gaff so I am and I’m that angry with Trish at the time that I think fuck it. Fuck it. And now I can’t get shot of her, she’s ringing and texting all hours. Then yesterday, right? She threatens she’ll call out to Leighlinbridge to introduce herself to Trish if I don’t meet up with her! I swear to you, I’m that close to…’ His next words, whatever they were, were strangled by the rage.
‘Well?’ says I. ‘Where do I come into any of this?’ Though I knew well enough the way Ruby’s mind was calculating. Couple of months after the business with the eye-socket, Ruby Reilly and a bruiser by the name of Dinny Foley set on Stumpy Corrigan one night with a couple of hurls, though he’s a huge big shithouse of a fucker. Long and short of it was he never played senior hurling again. And I was delighted, coz he was one dangerous fucker had a reputation for throwing the sliotar right up into your face before pulling across it. Dinny Foley’s out in Australia this long time, all the same I knew well, before ever he said it, that Ruby had that whole business with Stumpy Corrigan in mind when he come out to see me. ‘All I want you to do is put the frighteners on her. Just give her one dacent fright is all. Pull on a balaclava. Smash a couple of flowerpots. Put in the windshield of her car. Only be sure she sees you doing it.’ ‘Why don’t you do it yourself?’ ‘She’d have the guards on me is why. She works for Rhatigan? The lawyer? So I’ll have to have a watertight alibi for the night you’re doing it.’ ‘I’m not doing it.’ ‘You’re not?’ ‘With respect, I’m not scaring some biddy out of her wits for you, Ruby.’ ‘It wouldn’t be for me. It’d be for Trish.’ ‘For Trish. How d’you figure that?’ ‘Think about it!’ That was Ruby all over. Twisting an argument backways so it was never Ruby Reilly was at fault. And that’s what did it for me. After that there was no way on God’s Earth I was doing a turn for him, with his ‘It’d be for Trish.’
So when I heard a woman’s body’d been found up beyond in Graiguecullen, I knew well it was Ruby done it. Then yesterday he calls out again! You believe the cunt? I hear his boy-racer growling along for a country mile before he pulls into the yard. ‘Get in,’ he goes, not deigning to look at me. I do, I couldn’t tell you why, and off he speeds, skidding round the backroads of Carlow like a demented rally-driver, and he that agitated he won’t look at me while he explains what happened. Course none of it’s his fault. His head is literally all over the shop by the time he’s out in her place, threating her if she goes next or near Leighlinbridge what he won’t do to her and her precious cocker-spaniel Pixie.
And then she tells him she’s pregnant.
‘Pregnant!Christ’s sake she’s pushing fifty! There’s no way she’s pregnant. And after, what? Three weeks, like? But she swears blind, and this lecherous leer on her puss, I swear to you Patch, if you seen it! So I seen red. She has me that agitated that instead of taking a swipe at her telly like I intended, I let fly at her with the hurl and I must of caught her on the temple or something because she went down and she never got up again.’
Suddenly he’s pulling a handbrake and spitting up gravel out by the quarry and the force has me thrown flat again the door before we stop. He sits there stock-still, white-knuckles gripping the wheel, his eyes big as gobstoppers. What he says next is deathly calm. ‘If you done what I asked you, none of this hada happened.’
‘Why are you telling me this?’
He looks at me like I’m a right spastic. He pokes a finger into my chest – there’s no shake today – and he goes, ‘I was with you all last night, is why.’ ‘Where?’ ‘I don’t give a fuck where, Patch. Wherever you want.’ ‘I was home with the old dear last night.’ ‘Then I was there with yiz. You tell her, yeah?’ ‘I’m not bringing the mother into this. No way.’ ‘Ok. So then we were somewhere’s else. I don’t give a…’ ‘Why me? Couldn’t you not ask someone else, Ruby?’ ‘You, I’m asking.’ ‘But why?’ ‘Because you’re the only one knows. And that makes you an accessory, a chara. You’re an accessory before and after the fact.’ ‘How d’you figure that?’ ‘Because I told you all about her, Patch. I told you before I done it. And I’m telling you again, now. Eyes of the law, that makes you an accessory.’
So there’s the bind I’m in. Fucked if I know what I’m supposed to do. I could just go to the guards, tell them what I know. I mean, he never actually said he was going to lay a finger on her. As for him telling me afterwards, how does that make me guilty? For listening, like?
But if word got out I’m turned grass, Jesus! Coz I’d be called on to give evidence. Then say he wasn’t convicted, strength of my word alone?
Simplest’d be, go along with what he’s asking. The ole dear’s not going to know, I can leave her well out of it. But then, like I say, I’ve always acted in Trish Kelleher’s best interests. That’s why I didn’t stand in the way when first she hooked up with Ruby Reilly.
But do I really want her to go back to him, and he a murderer? And one that done the dirt on her, what’s more?
Robert Leslie Boland Award – Adult Poetry
Michael Farry, Co. Meath
Next time you drive to the end of the street
turn left instead of right and follow the road
as it narrows between verges of grass, cow
parsley, ash and elder on a rough, potholed
surface so that you must slow down though
there is scant traffic and a mile out of town
near the mill you’ll see the river and know
you take the next left onto the gravel road
where you won’t be surprised by stone walls
and blackface sheep in fields among whins
where you must forego all thoughts of speed
and distance, departure and arrival, just
enjoy the vintage blue, the thatched house
with honeysuckle over a monument gate
so that when the coach and four pass by you
you don’t react, just return a whip salute
and later, you wave a greeting to the boys
behind the ditch, pull in a little to allow
the khaki uniforms in the Crossley Tender
rush by as if you weren’t there, and carry on
until you see the ladies waiting with classic
ivory parasols, picnic baskets and puppies
but you mustn’t smile, or greet, or show
any vulnerability, just pass at a steady speed
and proceed to where the dawn grey gates
mark the entrance to the mansion and she
waits as you halt the pony, dismount to join
her on a tour of her estate, enjoy the jollity
and flirting as she tours you through her dells,
follies, wooded clefts and croquet lawns
remembering to keep a safe distance, wear
a muslin white mask and refuse to go beyond
the door, then make your excuses – children,
angling, hay making, leave with a curtsey
no glancing back, no regrets, whip the pony
to a gallop and at the stop sign, turn west
onto the road towards Mullingar, building
up speed so that you present no obstacle
to those returning from the races, but ensure
you flash your headlights at anyone you think
you know and grateful for main roads, road
signs, signs of modern civilization, drive on
until you reach the hospital car park, park.