It’s the back end of a summer in the early
nineteen sixties. We are waiting, the three of us,
in front of a gate that creaks between two worlds:
my sister so young she is only just remembered;
my brother Martin, who is also Máirtín
though when I call him across the fields
I am mocked by cousins for the glottal stop
that makes them think I’m Cockney.

But mostly, we have all three gone native,
and like the Norman barons, the generations of Fitzes,
are now more Irish than the Irish themselves.
Adopting country circumlocutions,
we say I do be and I’m after.
We have learned the words of rebel songs.

It’s the back end of a summer –
and behind us I see a whitewashed house,
its geraniums doing the best they can
in paint pot planters, the hens stepping warily,
as they look for places to hide their eggs.

Soon neighbours and uncles and aunts
will come to say goodbye to the visitors.
They will give us silver because we are children
and then hold on to our hands.
There are coins with the heads of kings and a queen,
and the ones we prefer with fishes, horses, bulls.
We can take them home
as souvenirs, but won’t be able to spend them.

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.