NORMAL SINGING - Poem by Michael Coady
The day is now well advanced. And yet it is perhaps a little soon for my song. To sing too soon is fatal, I always find. On the other hand it is possible to leave it too late. The bell goes for sleep and one has not sung.
- Winnie, Happy Days
The piano reclines in the bar's back room
where in all of its nights and days
it never knew caress
or climax of any kind of sonata.
It's missing two castors behind
and so leans back at its ease
in a corner where drinkers pass
to and fro with bladders full or relieved.
On the piano and around the room
are eleven pots of exotic flowers
that winter or summer never
need watering, and in the bar are seven
more pots of the same.
Over it all is Ellen, who has stood
by an open grave in her time
to see husband and son go down
and almost followed them there
on the wintry day she collapsed
in the yard and was out for the count
two hours on her own. Following which
she fought her way back and after six months
dusted off pots of flowers and threw
the front door open again
to people and drink and singing
for this is a house where lifetimes
of tipsy songs have been sung
and a place for the singsong still,
while the laid-back piano with flowers
just sits in the back room and listens.
It's taken for granted here
that every woman and man
must harbour some kind of a song
and if you should happen
to stumble or lose your way
then you'll be forgiven,
or helped along if anyone
else knows the words.
On New Year's Eve the bar is full
with spill-over into the room
of the waterless flowers
and laid-back piano, with songs
all around and tactful calls
now and then for a bit of hush.
Ellen's behind the bar, with Sheila
and Tommy and Margaret assisting,
and women done up to the nines for
the night that's in it. Colour it simple
and sacred, this mortal occasion
of souls assembled to mark
the flux between all that is gone,
and all the unknown to come.
Outside, a steady downpour
advancing from Slievenamon
courses over roof-ridges, slates
and gutters and windows and walls,
streaming down Lough Street, gurgling
into dark drains and off to the river,
then on and on to the sea forever.
As the old year runs out
the back door's unlocked to let it go.
Open the front then to flowing night
and face whatever may come.
Under the plenteous rain
that descends on the valley
midnight strikes on the Town Clock bell
that has measured the hours
for two hundred years
and there, slipping in from the dark,
the poet from Ayr just in time
with his presence as all join hands
and rise to his song together with
millions of others elsewhere
this night of old acquaintance.
Then round the house an exchange of well-wishing,
embraces and kisses and tears
before we return to replenishing glasses
and normal singing continues.
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