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Thursday, 20 September 2012

"Asked Mother"



“These are your playmates?” asked Mother.

Eyeing the East End kids

On the TB ward, warily!

“Why, they talk like gutter-snipes.

Not our sort of people at all!”


“Yeah, they’re me mates!” said I

In the language of my peers

“But why don’t you touch me?

Why don’t you hold me?

Why don’t you kiss me?

Said I, aged four, strapped flat on my back


“Woz that yer ‘Olds’?”

Asked the East End kids

With the kindness of the streets

“But why don’t they touch you?

Why don’t they kiss you?

Why don’t they bring you bread and dripping?”


“These are your friends?” asked Mother.

When she saw my travelling companions.

“Why they are almost like gypsies,

Not our sort of people at all!”


“That was your family?”

My friends asked, those

Men of the travelling people

“Why don’t they touch you?

Why don’t they hold you?

Why don’t they kiss you?

Why don’t they care for you?”


“Come sit down by the fire.

Take tay or take a drink,

Break bread, taste salt.

Come listen to some tales

Which will touch you,

Which will hold you,

And which will kiss your soul!”


“These are your workmates?” asked Mother.

Eyeing Jim Keating and Tony Barry

From Ennis in County Clare

“Why, they are almost gypsies,

Not our sort of people at all!”


“Was that your family?”

My travelling Irish friends said.

“Why did they not touch you?

Why did they not hold you?

Why did they not kiss you?

Why did they not care for you?”


“Come sit down by the fire

You’ve earned your bread today

By the sweat of your brow

And the strain on your back

You’ve earned your beer

And you’ve earned your tack

Come sing up a song

That will touch you

That will hold you

That will kiss your soul!”


“These are your friends, Dear?” said Mother.

Looking through the Photo Album

“Why, they look quite foreign,

Why are they nearly naked?

Why, they look like savages!

Not our sort of people at all!”


“You are a long way from your family.”

Said my Head-hunter friends.

“With no one to touch you,

No one to hold you,

No one to kiss you,

You must feel so alone!”


“So come sit down by the fire

Here’s some rice wine for joy.

Sing us a song, share in our dance,

Here’s the young maiden who captured your glance

She’s young and she’s lovely

And she loves your white skin,

She will touch you,

She will hold you,

And she will kiss your soul!”


So these are my friends, Mother,

And they’ve done me no end of good

And had you, like me, joined them for tea

They’d have done you no end of good too.


I hope where you’ve gone to now, Mother.

You have learned to see a bit clear,

That the men of the earth are the salt of the earth

And the one’s who are worth holding dear.


And I hope where you’ve gone to now, Mother.

You can find someone to hold dear,

Who will touch you,

And who will hold you,

And maybe, kiss your soul!


Copyright © Res JFB 20th May 2010