My head eventually grew
over the top
of the biscuit and white
formica table in the bar
and I could see them there
Big red hands with cuts
and grazes and crumpled
fingers, clutching cards
that had to be slammed
to the table with thumps
and cracks of bone
and hahs of triumph.
wanted to have a blazing face
when I threw down the
gauntlet of a Joker or a five
and in the winter dark evenings
Tom Twomey, Bill Drummy
and Paddy the Priest played
Beggar my Neighbour, Old Maid
and even forty five with me.
I was ignorant
of the crucial fact
was worse than reneging,
but they listened, even laughed
and played politely,
keeping their energies
for the evening feast.
Then I hid out
on the window sill
the red velvet curtains
like an angel
that would appear
in a biblical land,
peering out at a world
of passion and precision
I could not understand.
Set jaws, spellbound fists, gleeful flings,
blue eye after blue eye
after brown eye,
all holding their whist.
Angel Gabriel could have come
and blown his trumpet off,
the Second Coming
could have come and gone,
they wouldn't have heard a thing.... more »
It was Jim McMahon who first pointed out
that you never come across a bald tinker,
nor do you ever see one in old age.
For pure glamour, in my mind
no one could or will
beat the tinkers.
They were outsiders for a start,
sartorial smart, with an edge,
like the dangerous whiff
of burnt rubber you get at the Bumpers.
The young men, sometimes small,
always slim in leather jackets,
torn denim before it became de rigueur,
had unforgettable names
like Elvis O'Donoghue
Christy O'Driscoll the Bowler.
Even when I was ten
every one of them called me ma'am.
The older men, Teds or Rockers,
sported the sidelocks of Victorian cads,
with rubbery Native American skin
hair dyed blonde, they drove low
windowless vans and knew everything
about antiques and horses.
They were champion bowlers,
they spoke their own ancient language.
Even the people who abhorred them
barred them from pubs and shops,
would stop sometimes to whisper
in tones of mystified respect:
See that fellow over there
with the big head of white hair
he's the King of the Tinkers.... more »
COURT WELFARE OFFICER
Your teacher said we could talk in the café,
it is a marvellous building isn't it?
Aren't you lucky to be going to a school like this?
Purdy's for you and a tea for me.
You like Purdy's, do you?
Isn't that ceiling marvellous?
You know the restoration work here is an inspiration.
So why don't you want to see your father?
You just don't want to, is that what you are saying.
Just you don't want to.
Well, you were all talk when I met you at home on Tuesday.
How come you can't say anything now?
You are afraid of him?
You'll have to tell me more than that.
I have to tell the judge more than that, you know.
I can't understand why you've suddenly gone so quiet.
You were all talk yesterday about your drama class.
The judge will bend over backwards to get you to see him.
You know that, don't you?
You will have to go into a room with him.
What's not safe about it?
It's nothing to worry about, I'll be there too.
You have got to say more than you are saying if you want me to take you seriously.
Do you know it is your dad who pays the school fees?
He told me himself, yesterday.
He is very sad and I feel very sorry for him.
Yes, I think it's very sad that you won't see him when he is paying the fees.
Look at the beautiful ceiling and the stained glass windows.
Drink up, now. I have to go soon.
I can't go back to the judge and tell him nothing, you know.
It's not fair, the judge will say I am not doing my job properly.
You need to finish up that drink.
You must have something more to say.
I will be told that I am not doing my job properly.
And you will have to leave your drink behind you.... more »