By Parson Thru
It’s somewhere between station announcer,
heard from across the old canal,
parade ground sergeant (no – you might bask in that),
and Roger Waters’ teacher.
The sound has trained my stomach to knot.
It rises in intensity and pitch,
powered by a state of permanent indignation
– a cultural characteristic, it seems –
and a lifetime of resentment.
Within visible range,
the mask conjures silent films
and countless melodramas.
A family trait I remember well.
Finger extended, pointing its beam of spite.
I arrived, bags weighed down
with compassion and not a little love.
What went wrong?
Your condition is a cruel one, no doubt.
I’ve heard the anecdotes,
passed on by carers, well-wishers,
and each story is its own.
Nature – nurture.
As nature takes away,
it leaves what has been nurtured.
Where does the buck stop?
With your cartoon father:
drunkard, wife-beater and brute?
With the nuns and Christian Brothers?
Or can we generalise the problem to the swamp?
To the playing fields and parks?
To the factories, clubs and bars?
The mythologised fighting sons of Erin?
“Who do you think you are?”
“Don’t try to be something you’re not.”
“You’ll never learn anything from books.”
Wash your mouth out.
I remember the black eyes. He was a bastard.
“It’s all your fault.”
I remember that, too.
Life behind closed doors.
None of us are perfect. No one is intact.
But I know what I’ve seen
and I’ve been where I’ve been
and I know what I’m looking at here.
I’ve been to the top of a mountain.
(One you cannot visualise – not your fault.)
I know the people there.
Here, walls close in.
The air is heavy and bitter.
I still have compassion.
Perhaps it’s the millstone that will drag me down
as you rehearse your options. Leering. Pointing.
I don’t need any thanks,
but a little grace might help.