Sean Joyce

(17 April Everyear / Galway, Ireland)

See Now the Space Where Other People Used to Be

Too young to work
I sat by the window and waited
while the clock ticked.
I looked to the road
and the clock ticked.
I looked to the river.

Then there was a motorbike.
From a mile or more
away beyond the river
the glorious sound
of a motorbike.

Carried by the water
echoed back by the hills.
And with all my heart
I hope and pray
that this is a visitor
coming to see us.

There will be
someone in the sidecar.
The workers will come
in from the fields
and crowd around and talk.

There'll be cups of tea
and introductions.
But in the end we'll find
we knew each other
all along or someone
who knew us knew them.

'Was that your-man,
you know, your-man
that married the
girl from over the cross? '
(I hoped and prayed he was)

But this time it wasn't him
it wasn't him at all.
And God, how could it not?
Would all the evening falter now
and all the happy talk fall down?
But no, already we were
whole families away.

And quoted then
were the things they said
and the astonishing answer
someone once gave
to a question I couldn’t catch
and we laughed and we laughed and we laughed.

On the best days
we'd stand about for
half the afternoon or more.
Or talk ‘til dark
and be joined by other
farmers homeward bound
who, leaving their cows to wander
would stand among our visitors
and clap them on the back.

I made a vow
that when I grew up
I'd always know your-man
no matter who he married
and always know the
stories that went with him.

As time went by
I learned to see the space
where other people used to be.
The one my Grandfather left behind
and great aunt Mary who, they said
'married a man with a wooden leg
sailed for Peru on a leaky ship'.

But that was long ago and gone forever
with the geraniums and the jars.
And now I live among those empty spaces.

Last night, my grandmother
came to me in a dream.
She took my hand and told me all the news.
She said they're almost
all together now
and yes, the hens get in.

I said I'd come
I'd be there soon
and oh granny, I said,
can I come on a motorbike?
'I thought you might, ' she said.
'And granny', I called after her, '
you know your-man? '
'I know', she said,
'You'll bring him in the sidecar

Submitted: Saturday, August 18, 2007
Edited: Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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