Seán Walsh: Hail Mary

Hail Mary

There was this shrine, as I recall.

Oh, well known it was, locally…

We walked the three miles, there and back.

Out the country. Summer’s day…

Me still in short trousers,

boots that needed mending.

Six miles in all. A killer…

Knelt for the Rosary.

Nudging, gawking around,

stifling a giggle…

Every bead a penance…

Grass trodden by previous pilgrims.

The tree and the hollow,

the rock and the glade,

the stream where we filled our bottles

to carry home.

Our salute to you wafting out

on the warm, still air:

In sweet tones announcing…

Ave… Ave…

The Lourdes statue marking the ledge

where you appeared… whenever it was,

to whoever it was… reputedly.

We had you to ourselves in those days –

before you took off on a world tour:

Lourdes… Fatima… Mexico…

ongoing at a mountainy place

with a quare name

beyond in Yugoslavia…

Holy Mary, Mother of God…

And mine. My mother.

Are you? Really?… Hmmm.

Well, they’re not all like you, I’ll tell you.

Some of them can be right – !

Ah, I won’t say it out – out of respect…

You came through it all

with hardly a scratch,

so they tell me.

And now you’re on a direct line

to Himself:

easy access,

unlimited credit,

excellent equity,

buoyant stock –

in-in-interceding for us…

All I’m asking is that you put in

a good word for me –

hoping you’ll understand,

even if He doesn’t –

so when the time comes

I won’t be caught on the wrong foot…

And look, I know you’re inundated

with all sorts of prayers and petitions.

But I’d ask you – as a special favour –

to look out for my wee one.

She’s heading for the rapids and there’s

little I can do about it…

Well, you only have to go

as far as the street if you don’t believe me!

Teenagers on their way to the party,

pub, disco, rave…

chattering, shrilling, giggling,

hardly aware of the elders’ world

about them.

And in no time at all my wee one

will be one of them:

on-stream, ’full spate…

in tow, keeping up…

matching their form…

cool, laid-back, with-it…

Maybe even a leader?

In thrall to her peer group.

So please, will you keep an eye on my Jenny?

God knows, she could do with a bit of mothering.

And why not? Ah, now! No better woman…

Do. Oh, please.

Put your mantle round my daughter

and protect – save her.

Oh, I know, there’s the nuns

and they’re doing their best, I’m sure.

But they seem to have their hands full

and they stream, unmercifully,

and if you don’t mind me saying so,

their idea of Instruction,

Christian Doctrine,

is a far cry from the Penny Catechism…

‘Years ago, my wee one,

holding my hand, looking up at me:

‘Only the two of us, Dadsers!…

To tell you the truth, we’re both a bit

lost in our own ways…

When I think of it! ‘Looking back…

This wee girl, holding my hand,

clinging to me…

waiting, wanting – oh, longing! –

to be moulded.

And I, I paid her scant attention.

‘Thinking, ages before she… 

years and years yet a growing.

Plenty of time to, to…

More fool me…

Dear Jesus, I’m hopeless!

‘Can’t even say hello to your mum

without going off the rails…

Seán Walsh   2024

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  1. Martin Hogan says:

    A striking prose-poem that moves beautifully from the author’s memory as a child of visits to a local Marian shrine to the earnest pleas of a concerned father to Mary as mother/parent for his teenage daughter as she faces into the possibilities and pitfalls of adolescence. This moving piece concludes with the author’s honest appraisal of his own parenting. It is worthy of several reads as there is much here to savour

    1. sean walsh says:

      Thank you, Martin. How you tease out various strands in the narrative, then tie them all together in a final analysis. I bow my head…

  2. Seamus Ahearne says:

    The Clontarf link works well. Martin, you summed up Sean’s poem beautifully. The interplay is intriguing between you and is special. We are blessed by having a little glimpse of two artists are work on a canvas, which enlightens us. Thank you. Seamus

    1. sean walsh says:

      As my mother would say, God rest her, “I never went to school but I met the scholars…”

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