Sunday, July 30

The Irish Dimension (John Hewitt)

With these folk gone, next door was tenanted 
by a mild man, an Army Officer, 
two girls, a boy, left in his quiet care, 
his wife, their mother, being some years dead. 
We shortly found that they were Catholics, 
the very first I ever came to know. 
To other friends they might be Teagues or Micks; 
the lad I quickly found no sort of foe. 

Just my own age. His Christian Brothers’ School 
to me seemed cruel. As an altar boy 
he served with dread. His magazines were full 
of faces, places, named, unknown to me. 
Benburb, Wolfe Tone, Cuchullain, Fontenoy. 
I still am grateful, Willie Morrissey. 

When I was a kid, the lad I played with lived across the road several doors down. His house featured derelict stables out back, a relic from the horse and cart era, and for two little boys something of an adventure playground. He always wore a cap, it never left his head. Because they were a Catholic family I always assumed it was to hide the tiny horns that grew from the top of his forehead. How such notions enter the head of a four-year-old remains a mystery.

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