The Gardener

For Sandra


She turned to me and said,

do you think I am happy?

And I heard a question,

I didn’t want to hear.



I knew the answer.

I have listened to the cry.

But to face it, made me uneasy.

But I felt the bravery,

I felt the realness in the moment,


So I answered.


You see, she is a gardener,

who has great plans,

but works with what she has got.

She loves creation, sees beauty

and wants to share it with you.


She sees the cruelty of nature,

and understands its power.

Yet it fills her with wonder.


Have you tried her rhubarb,

fresh from granny’s garden?

You should!


Maybe there are prettier roses,

but she’d rather be a cooking apple.

Or better yet a gooseberry.


Her hands are worn,

the flesh loosened by age.

She held my hand in church today,

for the first time in too long.


Her eyes are still young,

still life to be lived.


This ‘Joe Bangles’ is not condemned,

when there is breath left.


Still seeking that happiness,

God love her!


“People before profit,” she says,

a modern day Guevara or Connolly,

as a nation lets her down.

Working 34 years in a job

draining away her very essence.


For what?


To feed me,

educate me,

clothe me.


But not stopping there…


I remember: she took me to

Mrs Prendergast’s near Butlin’s

when we couldn’t afford to go to Butlin’s,

caravanning in Roundwood

with takeaway Chinese,

the Isle of Mann, the theatre,

Tuesdays swimming,

Cinema in Coolock on Saturday,

where I got most of the popcorn,

jazz after church every Sunday,

as we did today 28 years on.


Taught me to notice the sunset.


Her bondage, a sick child

and broken marriage.

All this, and I don’t know

how to speak to her.

I always want to hug her,

and don’t know how.


So a veiled kiss laced in courtesy will do.


She has been learning,

how to stop living,

inside her own head.

Gets up, goes out.

Half the battle.


No panic attacks for a while.


Still manic,

but calmer now.

Still pretending.

Still xenophobic,


Not meaning to be.


Lost marbles down gutters like dreams.


The anger is fresher though,

built up over years

of false dawns, and mistrust.

Reduced expectations, frustrations.


Wants contentment now.



Yes, quiet.



Or, perhaps,

bird song.

In her garden.

Where she will grow,

rhubarb, strawberries,

apples, pears,

spuds, raspberries

and gooseberries.


Watch them, bloom again,


and return to the soil,

but not before

she has lived a life deserving.


My mother told me today,

she pretends to be happy.

What do you say to that?

Let’s watch her flower now I say,


and bring her some water.


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