The Parish Wedding
‘Maybe I’ll have another quick one before I go sure, one for the road, to hell
with poverty – what time does the barber close do you think?’ He asked the
friendly barman. Gerry looked at his watch and counted hours silently forward
with an in breath. He nodded his head in time with the count.
“Soon, soon” he replied finally.
Tomorrow being the big day and his hair was long – too long really, but as the
day slipped away and the world passed by outside the frosted glass – his hair
was getting shorter by the minute. The road to hell is paved with good
intentions; someone said somewhere. What the hell. Did he not try his best?
If the barbers shop wasn’t in the Market Square and if he hadn’t gotten the lift
to the West End of the town, none of this would have happened. What do you
expect when you have to walk past seven good watering holes in the Main
Street before the Square even comes in to view? It was just the way it worked
out. It was all becoming clear in his head. The battle in his mind had been
fought fairly and squarely with a clear winner by an overwhelming majority.
“One more twist, one more and I’m away” he looked around the bar as thirsty
evening patrons began to arrive. A different set than the day crowd, he mused.
Men in suits with pens in their top pockets and dusty men on early knock off
changed the scenery. Smoke began to fill the bar. It started to feel warmer.
Gerry put up the bottle of stout and Powers chaser with no fuss and with the
style of a man that could keep twenty men drinking without breaking a sweat.
The Guinness bottle seemed to hiss its own lid off and the glass lifted itself
silently to the optic as both vessels effortlessly slid onto the bar in a pocket of
air. “This one’s on the house son. Good luck for tomorrow.”
“You’re a good man Gerry, I was about to leave too” the young man replied.
“My hair’s a bit long, what do you think?” he asked the question, sure of getting
a positive response inside these sacred walls of solace and diplomacy.
“If it’s good enough for you then it should be good enough for her – sure won’t
she still have ye regardless?” Gerry replied and flicked the tea towel over his
shoulder. He was busy with other things on his mind as well. Men were nodding
for their usuals.
The young man sniffed to answer the obvious as he lifted his powerful nose and
lit a John Player Special. The smoke tracked like a fast moving cloud into the
whiskey bottles above his head and he picked a tobacco leaf off his lip. His
elbow rested on the tightly grained dark mahogany bar and he caught his own
reflection in the mirror behind the wooden till. He looked again with interest, as
if he’d just noticed a stranger in his lodgings and curiosity made the stranger
look back with attitude. He sat up and took notice of him. His thick dark hair
was combed back from a strong, hard olive forehead and bushy sideburns
reached below his ears. His eyebrows were dark and fearsome and his eyes
weren’t big enough in the frame, looking back at him like black dots from frogs
spawn. His teeth were strong and white and permanently on display as the
quiver of his top lip refused to let his mouth fully close.
In a few drinks time – the young man staring back at him would be a complete
stranger, both he and his attitude could go to hell. The worries and cares in the
muffled street outside would still be there tomorrow. The dark grey interior of
the pub lost any semblance of natural light. Day finally relented and gave way
to the darkness of night.
Two old men dressed in black suits with weathered red faces and caps in their
pockets talked about farming. They sat at the bar and complained about the low
price for the spuds and the amount of work that’s in it too.
His mind was a million miles away from their banter and he studied the photo
on the calendar with two people in a pony and trap. The coal merchants name
above the days and dates was partly obscured by a blue card of salted peanuts.
It was 1960, that’s all that mattered, to hell with the old days and he hoped to
never see another farming utensil, hay fork, corn scythe, turf spade or spud. He
The following day, a Groom stood in the front pew, directly in front of the altar.
His head was pounding to the rhythm of a racing heartbeat. Boiling steamed
claret pumped through his veins. He brushed the hair out of his eyes and looked
straight ahead in concentration at the white marble and soft carpet. The Chapel
felt like a silent film unfolding on a coloured canvas, albeit with a different
solace from the friendliness of yesterday.
Apart from a few light whispers and coughs, he was alone with his dull thoughts
and pain – self-inflicted pain.
Last night’s whiskey and stout leached from every pore and the sweat
moistened on his brow even though there was a chill in the air. The old grey
priest looked at him through big black, wide rimmed glasses and had seen that
look before on a wedding morning. An embattled, nervous young fellow needed
a comforting word from a man of the cloth in these situations and he knew just
the thing. He sidled silently to the front seat with his black shiny shoes barely
touched the carpet – he bent down close for the priestly whisper and consoling
“Are ye alright there son, and have ye yer sense about ye?”
His eyes were sympathetically opened wide with concern and a soft whisper for
“I’m grand, no bother” the young man said as the priest caught a whiff of last
night and waved it away like a bad batch of buttermilk. He stood up now – no
concern and a look of pain and disgust on his face.
‘If there’s nothing wrong with ye, then sharpen up’ and he walked to the back to
wait on the bride, summoning the Clerks with a sharp wave of his cloak.
They followed without question, dressed in red and white robes like Cardinals
in the Vatican for the important Enclave.
In a small townland in the depths of the Parish, the barn was empty. A
melodeon player was booked. The walls were freshly whitewashed like snow on
Christmas morning. Gerry supplied crates of Guinness.
There was going to be a celebration.
A Tale Of Ivy
The oak tree dropped the most beautiful acorns in the world. It had, at least in my opinion –
the best location in the world to grow and somehow – there was an understanding that the
tree knew it too. The air was moist, warm and damp around it whether it was winter or
summer. The river gargled softly to the sea just within the reach of its enormous roots. They
spread across the forest floor like tentacles of a giant octopus, deeply enriched by mother
earth and stronger and more attached to the planet than any other living thing. I imagined
myself being so grounded and the thought of never leaving here crossed my mind.
When the tree was an acorn, in what must have been two thousand years ago – it happened
upon a great fortune. It was carried in the beak of a hungry blackbird, only to be dropped on
the forest floor as the bird opened its mouth in awe of the beautiful surroundings and the
Atlantic Ocean beyond. Soon, by good fortune, the acorn was covered up by discarded
leaves of summer and hidden from the empty bellies of hungry squirrels. It took root in the
moist soil and sank deep into the undergrowth. White umbilical cords of life burrowed into
the succulent earth. The small acorn discarded its hard brown shell and disappeared from
That winter and for several winters thereafter – barefoot humans cut a track through the
forest with the young acorn narrowly escaping certain uprooting and death. It was then – as
luck would have it and favour the brave that the miracle happened. Springtime brought light
and warmth in abundance. The forest floor was damp and dark but for the young acorn
there was a kaleidoscope of light and it thrived in the conditions next to the track. Light
warmed its supple branches and soft rain fell caringly on its first gentle leaves. The forest
rejoiced and curtsied.
A King was born.
Years passed and the little acorn became a mighty oak tree in every sense of the word.
Majestic birds made nests in its mighty branches and forest animals slept warm and safe
under its enormous canopy. With every nod of admiration from a weary traveller, resting
under in the shade of greatness – the oak tree drew great strength and ascended high above
every other living thing. In fact – people walking the now well-worn track believed that
Heaven could be touched from the very roof of the giant tree. In my youth – I was one of
these travellers and marvelled at the glory of the acorns creation.
Ivy grew green and gangly on a whitewashed wall. The tentacles clung to the haphazard
stones like hairy spiders – covering everything in brown and green. Having no spine to speak
of itself, the creeper thrived and took the shape of its host, straight and square – jutting out
here and there around the unevenness, reaching for the sky, for the light – for Heaven, not
that it believed Heaven existed. It clung to life, extracted it and spat out the remnants in
brown worthless dust. Eventually, when the wall resembled a green ugly monster – it was
cut down and dumped on the forest floor – just off the well-worn track.
In that summer season – the ivy had sent thin slithery scouts to look for a new host, a new
hope to climb again and it took root in the forest floor. It looked around for another ladder
to climb – to wrap its tentacles around – to bleed dry and crack and break. One weak strand
made it to the base of the king and started up the trunk. I remember that day. I was there
as the thin hairy tentacles began to wrap around the great oak. I could have done something
but it seemed harmless enough and in fact – in its infancy, there was a beauty to behold as
the little monster promised to be kind.
Yesterday, I visited the mighty oak tree and barring the skeletal shape of what it once was –
the tree was gone, strangled by large ships ropes of death – curled around its branches until
the very wood had turned to dry dust. The once carpet of glorious acorns were now reduced
to twelve or thirteen around the trunk where the last of the summer leaves had fallen next
to the well-worn track. The ivy, like greedy and conniving nations had brought about its
own demise and now dangled limp in the air – almost able to touch heaven but must now
fall miserably in large clumps at the first good storm. Short sighted in its plundering raid –
the ivy like the oak, would falter.
I vowed to step in the next time a parasite choked something of great importance to me.
Time will judge me and time will tell whether I have been successful or not.
As the death of one age comes into view – so it is the birth of a new one.
Today – on the side of the well- worn track where the soil is rich and moist – I planted an
acorn – one of the last from the King and the great oak somehow survived. I imagined the
great awe as weary travellers rested under the new Kings canopy in a thousand years or
more. I hoped to be back to see it then. As for the ivy – hollow, foolish, hairy and dusty – it
was trampled underfoot.
A passing blackbird sneezed and brushed the dust from her shiny wings.
Peace Be Me
What if our currency was love?
and money did not make the world go round
What if the seas and the trees and mountains too,
didn’t have boundaries and borders going through?
What if all the world came together as one?
One family, one world, all colours, all one
I ask this today, can’t help living in hope,
Sun shone as I had this to say
felt the warmth from far away
What if war was taught only in history’s page?
and truth and love was told,
no need for investors in riches and gold?
What if we come together with love and peace?
My mother your mother, no other –
just love and peace.
Open your hearts, starting one by one
sending love to the world, without a gun
Treaties and titles belong to the few
We all belong here, love and me and you
What if people were fearless and
their words full of joy?
Heaven on earth would be here
No famine nor hatred – nor child without home,
Seas welled from years – salted by tears,
no mothers cry, no mother cry
If the sun never rose to a day filled with war,
Unite us together as one
Let the stars sprinkle hope
And the moon guide the way
Let everyone speak and nations their say
So I stand here before you
and declare to the world,
as love is my witness, let peace be me
From a far-away distance it’s easy to see
Now my currency is love
and I give a damn
war and peace and war again –
we’ve all seen enough and understand
Let love reign in the threatening hand
Because I for one – give a damn