Today’s Father’s Day and just over six months since the death of my own father.

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My father, Martin Hayes or Michael M. O’hAodha, as he signed himself, died on December 14, 2015. He was a traditional Irish Republican, of  west of Ireland farming stock, classically educated, who could roll to bed with a Latin phrase and rise, with a verse of Greek, gave much of his life, willingly, in the service of the nation he was born with…On the morning of December 10, 2014, when the people of Ireland were poised to express their very vocal disgust and protest at the introduction of water charges but, even more importantly, their outrage at this Government’s mismanagement and complete disdain and disregard for the democratic will of the people, I wrote this poem, History Lesson, inspired by a conversation with him, who was born in 1922, the year of the birth of this nation.

Born at the birth of a nation
in poverty and hope
a new dawn with brooding clouds
rent by hate and blood spill.
The manifesto of its origins
written in its history
but hidden in their childhood

That history’s written by victors.
What did they win?
and who won?
Our son of the nation
took his education
but learned his history
at home
in fireside tales
of perfidious foes
and fearless heroes

He sustained lonely vigils
on a border of two nations,
history told him
should be one
for what he knew
of his nation’s birth
was nurtured
in fireside heat

A story of a history,
stolen and divided,
but by who and why
was never clear
until once he stepped
in the footsteps
Of those who died
to give their nation
its first breath of life

and read their words
addressed to all the nation
of cherishing all the children,
It caused him to pause and think
of who had won, what
and to what end?

For who and what,
is an Irishman
or woman?
Is there a template,
forged from genetic chain,
wrought by struggle
and defiance,
bitter betrayal and treachery

Or is it fashioned
from optimism,
a melting pot of influences,
drawn from legend,
myth and conquest,
brewed and nurtured with care,
respectful, breathless awe,
for its’ hostess,
Mother Ireland
Resplendent in all her feral beauty,

her memory is the fervent dream
residing in the hearts of emigrants,
the universal identity given
to all her ambassadors.

And for all those who have gone
marching to a foreign drum
who carry within themselves
the crash of waves on faraway shores,
the echo of sounds of home.

A music nurtured from birth
of place and time and race
a heart beating at a pace
for dancing at a crossroads
or keening at a country wake

A music driven underground,
by imperial colonists,
bent on oppressing,
and dog collar zealots,
bent on repressing.

Tunes of freedom,
spirits soaring
stirred souls abroad,
awakening
to the realisation,
the sound and land
they left,
resides within them

Our hearts swelled with pride
and opened there, a revelation
wrapped in enigmatic notion
that all these passions and emotion
could translate into a nation

How could we not, and changing,
change the world we live in?
though while we changed,
that world was far
beyond the pale
pallor of the land
wherein we lived.

For what happens
when the leaders die,
the visionaries who
could see the light
of a land of equals
free and proud?

Carrion’s pecking order
swoops to stake their claim
and rip the throat
to quell the voice within,
steal the eyes
so they can’t see.

The howling jackals feeding
on the carcass of the hero,
while their greatest crime
becomes their greatest failing
the immolation of imagination.

They climbed in a mirror
became their own oppressor.
Sought, like a wounded cur,
the comfort of an angry voice,
a swinging cudgel.

To kowtow to bankers
and bondholders
and bury their own
in seething debt,
pawning family jewels
like oil, gas and water
for a derisible pittance.

A monument to delusion
a chimera of misapprehension.
forgotten children
abused, discarded, disavowed,
redundant and downsized,
the surplus to their needs.

Lie dead in the streets
paved with those spikes
the symbol of a
sickening fantasy.

And now,
approaching the centennial
of his own birth
and the birth of a nation served
wondered again.

As tax piles upon tax
who’s history was it for,
that it should be washed away,
relinquished,
like some redundant lease,
a mortgage in default,
before the freedom promised
could be cherished
by its sons and daughters?©

2015-12-15 16.33.38
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13 thoughts on “History Lesson, in memory of my father

  1. A great poem ….can feel the truth and passion in it ….a fitting tribute to your father on Father’s Day …and a lovely wedding photograph to complete the picture
    Thanks for sharing

      • They’re lovely gardens … my Dad had an allotment …took for granted that I never had to buy veg …actually neither did the whole street:D:D ….they seemed to be able to turn their hand to anything the older generation didn’t they?
        God …the times over the past few years I could have done with talking things through with my Dad ….no matter how old we get we still miss them don’t we?
        And it’s not that long since your father passed …they say the first year is the hardest …although with my father …because he had quite a long illness …I was relatively ok at the time ..it caught up with me years later really:)
        So who looks after the garden now Dermott?

      • The house is for sale. My brother keeps an eye on the garden, to keep it presentable. I have a roof garden, where I grow herbs; my brother has his own garden and grows everything. You can guess by my father’s age, we’re not Spring chickens

  2. Dermott, your writing always moves me and this is no different. My great grandfather Rooney came to the US from Ireland. I have always wanted to go there. I am very sorry about your father… mine passed 3 years ago. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words.

    • Tamara, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about my writing in a while and I will treasure it. That poem was four times as long, four days ago, until, thinking of my father, I finally tackled it and put this shape on it. He loved poetry and to my surprise, loved mine, although I have written less than two dozen and it’s not my natural idiom. He was born in 1922, the year this state I live in was born, worked, all his life as an underpaid but dedicated public servant. In the end, he felt betrayed by them and that’s what I wanted to convey. Pardon me and this long winded reply. I hope you continue to enjoy my writing. Thank you, again.

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