Thursday 8 December 2016

The All-Souls Hotel

Published 30/10/2011 | 05:00

The passing of October.

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Pumpkins in the dark

Illuminate the pathways

Of Forget-Me-Not Park.

Down Memory Lane

Someone's ringing a bell

For Halloween Night

In the All-Souls Hotel.

It opens close to Wintertime

In the corner of the soul

Where the shipwrecked find a harbour

And the lost come home.

And the chestnuts fall

In the waters of the well

By the gardens of mercy

At the All-Souls Hotel.

Handshakes on the landings; friends never made.

Philip Lynott playing poker with John Charles McQuaid.

All the Romeos and Juliets who couldn't be together

Meet in the forgiveness of the gold and ochre weather,

Where the rules are different, and there's nothing to sell,

In the orchards of compassion

At the All-Souls Hotel.

Come closer to the windowpane,

Face to the glass.

The ghosts of those we loved

Seem to shimmer as they pass

Through the rooms of recollection

Where the mirrors are veiled

In the drapes of their absence

And the letters never mailed.

Old gloves. Old books.

A ball-gown on a bed.

Old hurts unforgiven,

And the things never said,

Mingling with October

Like a half-forgotten rhyme.

Be gentle, they whisper,

While you still have time.

The sea-wind brings November.

Soon there will be snow

Down the hedgerow lane

Where the blackberries grew

And the branches of the elders

Bend to an arch

Of fox-roamed shadows

Near a country church.

Angry bonfires assemble.

Fireworks fizz and soar.

In the All-Souls Hotel,

Man, they saw it all before.

So on Halloween, they say,

Leave your dreads at the door

Let all be well.

Be at peace. Be mild.

Unclip them

Like a costume

Discarded by a child.

For they don't matter here,

All your frailties and your fear,

The masks you once wore,

All your vanities and grief,

All the things you thought important,

They were some of them illusions.

Fate is dressed like a fool.

Time's dressed like a thief.

So they go to bed early

In the All-Souls Hotel,

With a book,

Or some knitting,

Or the memory of a lover

Who was luscious as a mouthful of wintertime wine.

I'll say a prayer for yours, friend.

Say a prayer for mine?

Joseph O'Connor

Joseph O'Connor's Wednesday radio diary is broadcast on RTE One's Drivetime with Mary Wilson

Sunday Independent

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