Bad Manners in a Small Irish Town
by Fred Johnston
The Chairman will not reply to letters. Chieftain
Of the Chamber of Commerce, he wears a chain
Of office. He is a local son. We are on his patch.
Saturday pubs moan with the weight of grown men
Who married each other’s sisters and remained neatly
Groomed as schoolboys. Their wives know their place.
Even the bored dead who squander flight in winter
Arcs from the bridge, whose bodies float off fattened
As the bellows on a set of bagpipes, know each other.
The Town Council will never apologise. Regret is
A sign of an indecisive man, torn between right and
Wrong. There is no right or wrong here, only Yes.
There is a sign in the bakery window for Polish bread:
The taxi drivers are Nigerian, the coal-man delivers
Himself from Croatia; there are a hundred words for No.
But like a white-trash Horatio at a bog-standard bridge
Defending a palsied Here from every possible Yonder,
The Chairman will not reply to letters. A bald man in
Spectacles, he blinks often in the light of everything;
A gillie refuses the world in his name, dismisses poets,
Buys a first suit. He is hired to shout at people he dislikes.
But let us not reply to letters. Lock the doors, pull down
The shutters. There is no one in. Let our rat-clerks clear
The In-trays, there is nothing going Out. Let the chains
Of provincial office be polished with rags and familiar
Sweat. What we know we know. We are idols asleep
Upright in a bog-hole. Bury us in our Confirmation suits.
A man who owns a window-desk cannot be wrong; to own
An entire building is to know God. There is no sin
Like old sin. No view like the view from concrete stars.