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State Funeral
Parnell will never come again, he said. He’s there, all that was mortal of him.
Peace to his ashes.
James Joyce, Ulysses
That August afternoon the family
Gathered. There was a native déjá vu
Of Funeral when we settled against the couch
On our sunburnt knees. We gripped mugs of tea
Tightly and soaked the TV spectacle;
The boxed ritual in our living-room.

My father recited prayers of memory,
Of monster meetings, blazing tar-barrels
Planted outside Free-State homes, the Broy-
Harriers pushing through a crowd, Blueshirts;
And, after the war, de Valera’s words
Making Churchill’s imperial palette blur.

What I remember is one decade of darkness,
A mind-stifling boredom: long summers
For blackberry picking and churning cream,
Winters for saving timber or setting lines
And snares: none of the joys of here and now
With its instant jam, instant heat and cream:

It was a landscape for old men. Today
They lowered the tallest one, tidied him
Away while his people watched quietly.
In the end he had retreated to the first dream,
Caning truth. I think of his austere grandeur;
Taut sadness, like old heroes he had imagined.