Saturday, 4 June 2011

An Irish Emigrant returned

There we were again at the Watford Gap,
Spring air, weak tea and bacon sandwiches our lot,
Another motorway morning on the road
To London. Our tobacco tins were full,
Our packs of papers well-counted, for cigarettes
Measure out the day and pepper up slack time
in the ganger's hut when the rain would come.
Yes, we were fit and ready for the labouring!
Homes far behind us,
England's air pouring over us,
The strength rising in us,
The sadness falling from us,
For friends are travelling with us,
And the earth would rise before us
As we dug down the days in London's chalk
And clay, poured pillars of concrete, raised towers,
Buried pipes, laid the kerbs and paved the streets.
Ach warriors of the building site we were,
Who fought the work with shovel and pick and won.
And when the pubs were closed and the music gone,
In our whiskey armour, with our beery shields,
In the rooming-houses we fought the lonely man.
We put him down, but always he came again
Against us. We are old now and our bones ache.
The memories in our hands are pain,
When fingers cannot close over a pen,
Or any slender thing. In the pension book,
I scrawl my name and with a fool's quick smile,
Avoid the cashier's awkward look,
For there, parading on the T.V. Screen,
In Ireland more than us a thousand times
Made welcome, is the English Queen.

© Stephen Smith

Queen ‘deeply moved’ by reception on Cork visit


A recent immigrant from Ireland, Steve has had agitprop plays performed in Ireland and a documentary broadcast on RTE in 1998. He has written and staged 2 plays in Liverpool and reads at the city's Dead Good Poets. More...