Friday 17 August 2007

For Uncle Willie

The pitchforks darted and jabbed
As the men flung the hay to your feet.
You levelled and trampled as the stack grew
above the plum trees in the garden.

I was five, and I stood with the women
who came with tea and sandwiches
to feed the builders
of the last hay stack.

The following autumn the garden was silent
Black polythene covered heaped grass
And oozed the stink of silage.

You went on fixing fences
And cutting turf on McGee's hill
Long after the rest stopped caring.

When I visited,
Your disarming smile and innocent wit
Reminded me of an earlier time

When you said the matchstick men
Came to visit from the moon
To take away their empty boxes from your fireside.

Then you fell ill
Eight months you lay in the Shield*
Knowing that Cancer wouldn't be beaten.

Two weeks from the end
While I was touring in Asia
You were lonely and afraid

When I returned
The peaty earth of Caiseal Ard
had swallowed you forever.

* Shield Hospital, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal

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