Sunday, 15 May 2016

Summer 1979: Poem.

By Patrick Slevin

In 1979 we were holidaying at my aunt's in Ballinamore, Leitrim. On a day trip to my father's home town of Westport we visited a relative's house where there was a picture of the signing of the declaration of the Irish Republic. I was six years old and mistook it for the Last Supper. 

In this poem, it is the journey to a relative's house which is described, as well as the journey my father's emigrant generation took-- and also the relationship second generation Irish have with the home they will never live in but are brought up to believe they are forever connected with.


Brought back for summer headlines before the
Copy warmed, the sixth edition ran
Stories, from another press. Black on white
And black on red, borrowed plates to serve 

The picnic, the temporary Beetle meandered
Under the Eagle’s weary eye. Beyond
McBride’s, beyond the Quay, beyond those
Leitrim two-week lanes. My father took the

Uncle’s chair, a Covey coming back to 
Where he’d kangarooed Brylcreem style, long
Before the Boomtown Rats. All day to look
At Old Head rain and then the favela 

Of the dead, grass swept under tarmac before 
A turkey ran me laps. Outside familiar 
Frames, slurred voices hid by welcome turf,
Strangers disguised as cousins, grandsons

Of the same revolt. We stood as victims 
Of a reclaiming Empire while they just 
Farmed the family acres. Mistaken 
Apostles gazed down on us, rising  

For the last supper. Explanations came  
Thick and fast, inside that room I could have 
Cried and cried. Laughter didn’t ease the pain
Amongst the vow of silence. Cajoled, hair   

Ruffled, amid proclamations of what  
Would you expect? We broke bread together,   
I suppose I was one of them. The  
Collection envelopes had gathered 

Once, in that house where the missed still shone. 
In the slumbered sunset, isolated 
Dreams had long since dimmed. They talked us round 
Whispered routes, of English wakes, of 

Lavery’s next years. Looking out for names 
On maps, exhausted fumes carried fresh goodbyes. 
Down a silent unlit road, looking for 
Directions home, but home was someone 

Else’s house, where we’d never live. Soldiers 
Without much song in our heart. Loaded full 
With heavy salutes. For fallen comrades 

And for us. For the land of heroes gone.


Manchester Irish Member Patrick Slevin lives in Stockport. He has been writing poems and stories for many years.

The images and text used in this post are © Patrick Slevin except for the image of the 1916 signatories which is in the Public Domain.

Patrick wrote 'Summer 1916' for MIW's commemorative event, '1916: The Risen Word', which was performed at the Irish World Heritage Centre, Manchester on March 10 2016. MIW received the generous support of the Embassy of Ireland for this event.

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