Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Old Men

 The breed of old men I’m remembering is gone now. I remember them out from the county home, on walks into town or sitting on the low stone wall in summer sunshine. They were countrymen, wore well battered suits and flat caps, leaned on walking sticks and did or didn’t say hello. Some, of course, were very friendly, and some carried bags of sweets. The women were less visible usually; they tended to stay closer to the old building.
I didn’t realise it then but a lot of them had sad stories, and the silent ones had good reason. Some were almost dumped there, for others the Co. Home was a salvation. For many, the old home was still too close to its workhouse history to  be a comfort, and maybe some recognized in the old double ditch, 400 yards on the road, the boreen that led to the workhouse cemetery.
Whatever, they were very much part of the grain of my Roscommon childhood. 

Who Has Seen The Old Men

Who has seen the old men
getting their suits
tanned to their backs? 

Ghost of a check,
button holes frayed,
crew cut threads. 

Years worn on face
and on cloth;
the cloth becomes the face. 

And when the Summer colours
come clashing
on the young,  

who will see
the old men
in their concrete cloth?

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