Thursday 22 February 2018

First school disco

Yesterday, at his birth, I could hold him in one hand.

Fervent, his stare at the monochrome new.

On the nights he didn't sleep, I knelt by his crib,

Lulling lines from old songs I didn't know

I remembered.

A night owl, curious, enthralled by blue shadows,

Chuckling at angels

He glimpsed in the curtains.

The embers of a fireplace,

Towards which he stretched his hands,

As he rolled on the rug after bath-time.

Ireland was changing.

We brought him home from London,

Through the wintry land of England.

Christmas when we came.

Drinkers on the Ferry

Singing 'Fairytale of New York'

As the lights of Dun Laoghaire,

My boyhood town,

Appeared in the beer-steamed windows.

I blinked. Eleven years

Went past in a lullaby.

My son beside me now

As we drive through the dusk,

Reads names from redundant posters

Of Presidential candidates,

As they dampen on the passing lampposts.

Quiet in the car.

Wipers moving rain.

The names he utters gently

Like a necklace he's assembling

From beads he once found in an old box of toys.

At the school, he combs his hair,

Checks his Man United shirt,

Greets his teachers with a nod,

Looks nervous, excited.

'Dad, will you stay?

You can, if you want.

It's only six to seven.

We'll be finished in an hour.'

Maybe better to leave.

The truth is, I can't.

Here come the glittered girls. And here the hearty boys,

Pucking one another as the disco begins,

On the night of my firstborn child's first dance.

Jedward doing 'Fight For Your Right to Party.'

Lady Gaga's manifesto: 'Want Your Bad Romance.'

I'd always thought I wouldn't mind,

Would wear his growing lightly,

Shrugging off the milestones,

Consoling his mother.

But it's me who feels the ache

In the shadows of my joy,

Flicker-lit by strobe and by knowing where we are.

Wishing I could hold him, one last time.

Or wishing I could join him

On air guitar.

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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