A shovel fits his arm like a prosthesis
Smooth scooping left to right and over shoulder,
The forearm wipes away a lock of sweat,
Strong fingers shade from heat and light and looks.
Arms stretched like a plumb, the eyes
Gauging length and depth
And creased at the side of a hundred bars
Jaw keen as wit.
Haunched down among the daisies
Taking it seriously, her small face
Ernest gazing up at God
And his benevolent, caring
Arm umbrella’d round tiny shoulders
Intent on gold and spikes and green:
Perfect attention to the job in hand,
Close as flower and soil.
“The kids” he called the children,
All grown up
And bringing small ones
Of their families in
To share the country, drink a cup,
And learn the books and stories of their home.
A master’s hand with concrete,
Stubby fingers nailed
With broken edges,
Teased the water and sand’s leak
Into pots, not gold but filled
With bulrushes and sedges.
Wandering on the common
With the dogs,
Earlier with children and a pony,
The latest bitch obedient to his whim,
Scurrying for logs,
Saving him from being lonely.
Skibbereen seems far from Stormy Down,
Childhood’s voices shout more clear
Though wind is silent.
Now used to loss of workmen
Heart’s pounding fills his ear,
Steadying the slow descent.
The birds still sing,
Though muted for this man
Grandchildren must shout loud.
But still there’s pleasure in the thing,
A child’s kiss sweet as jam
Falls on his cheek like showers from a cloud.
Though limbs may fail,
Senses slacken and ease,
Ear shell empty of the ocean roar,
There is not call to think him frail,
To bend to please:
Memory makes him much more so.
Published in The Green Dragon No 7, Summer 1998
Another poem by Lynne Walsh