Friday, June 29, 2007
A Second Poem
Another recent poem shows my desperation at trying to come up with some sense for the kids I’m teaching, some sense to the seeming waste of young life we have been experiencing here in St Joseph’s, my homely place of work. Mind you, who can make sense of the untimely death due to natural causes of a 15 year old who drops dead out of the blue; or the horrific murder at knife-point of an 18 year old lovely human being; or the death by asphyxiation of a 17 year old in his own vomit during the night after a cocktail of drink and drugs? Legions of questions come to my mind over the years of my life, the question Ger Smyth asked me years ago when I was a young teacher starting out on my career. Ger had said to me one morning, “Tim, what’s it all about anyway?” I answered, “Jesus, Ger, that’s too heavy a question for this hour of the morning!” Little did we his friends know that Ger had long suffered from a congenital terminal heart-condition with only three years to live -hence the provenance of his question. Anyway, the effort below is my attempt at struggling to put some shape or meaning on our experiences. I probably at least succeeded in not succeeding!
When Words Fail
There’s nothing left to say,
Not that there was too much in the first place –
We had become almost too intoxicated
With our own poor opinions and ideas
And had started to believe our own shibboleths,
Had almost swallowed whole our own slogans.
We were all clutching at straws then,
Crawling about in the dark for a match
In the hope of casting a little light
While pretending to ourselves and others
That we had some sacred knowledge,
Some insight gathered and garnered
Over years at our mother’s knee.
I tried to comfort him – poor boy –
Distraught at his best friend’s death
But I failed dismally –
My weak words vanishing into air –
“Nothing will bring him back!”
How right he was and is –
Perhaps his first brush with death,
Dark unspeaking death,
Cold as a stone and no blood left –
Expressionless face, too still.
We are unmasked
For the cowards we are –
Our hearts break
And the floodgates open –
Our Christ lies across our mother’s knees –
Grows cold in our embrace.
No mother should have to lose a son so young,
Barely fifteen summers,
Not even half as old as the Galilean.
We are a strange breed,
We kick and strain in search of freedom,
Some little work to be remembered by,
Some sense of self,
Some comfort in another soul,
Some meaning in the journey.
Yet behind it all
We fear our dissolution,
The dust of bone
In the lonely wind.
Above is a picture of Balgriffin cemetery with Seán Nolan's grave in the foreground.