© Tom McIlveen

Winner, 2013 ABPA Victorian State Championship and the Silver Brumby Award, The Man from Snowy River Festival, Corryong, Victoria.

The sun refused to shine that day as if attempting to convey
condolences to those of us united in despair.
Reciting from the ‘Book of John’ and chanting ‘Kyrie Eleison’,
the congregation knelt, and bowed their heads in silent prayer.

The Eucharistic Liturgy had seemed a little long to me,
as mourners stood to take the sacred offering of bread.
‘Oh day of mourning , prophet’s path, prepare us for the day of wrath!’
The words of ‘Di-es Irae’ seemed to echo through my head.

The rosewood coloured casket gleamed beneath the candlelight that seemed
to flicker with an eerie, iridescent golden glow.
The silhouettes upon the walls, inside the chapel of Saint Paul’s,
resembled scenes from Calvary, two thousand years ago.

I spoke to Jesus on the cross, to help alleviate the loss
of someone who meant more to me than words could ever tell.
A mother, matriarch and friend and confidante until the end,
whose life was now exalted, by a solitary bell.

The eulogies were well prepared, with memories divulged and shared,
by those bestowing accolades upon your troubled soul.
They knew about your dark malaise and why you sought the foggy haze
to liberate the raven dog from pits as black as coal.

The pills prescribed had eased the pain, but nearly driven you insane,
as you had tried to cope with dull, enforced sobriety.
Suspended in your own cocoon, believing that you were immune
to tranquillising sedatives that failed to set you free.

Like water tinkling over stones, in soothing melancholic tones,
I thought I heard an angel sing a rhapsody in rhyme.
The words from early childhood years had conjured unexpended tears,
as memories conveyed me to another place and time.

‘I’ll take you home again Kathleen, to where your heart has ever been
across that distant ocean that appears so wild and wide.
The roses all have left your cheek, your voice is sad when e’er you speak,
since first you left old Ireland and became a bonnie bride.’

‘A rose will fade before it dies, as tears bedim your loving eyes,
I’ll take you home to where your heart will joyfully remain.
Oh I will take you back Kathleen, to where the fields are fresh and green,
to Ireland, for eternity ?  I’ll take you home again!’

You loved that grand old Irish song, and you and I would sing along
and improvise with melodies and lyrics of our own.
Though out-of-tune and somewhat shy, I’d hum the chorus line and try
to harmonise with Clarence Whiteside’s Verdi baritone.

‘Your Irish eyes are smiling now, without those shadows on your brow,
and in the lilt of laughter I can hear that angel sing.
A fairy song so bright and gay that steals my celtic heart away
and cheers my aching spirit ? ah tis like a morn in spring !’

‘The pipes are calling Danny Boy as you return with pride and joy
and run from glen to glen and down the vale and mountain side.
With summer in the meadow still before the dread of winter’s chill,
tis you that must be going there, and I ? that must abide.’

‘But come ye back when summer’s gone and I will come and kneel upon
the place where you are lying in your coffin down below.
And you will feel my endless love and hear my footsteps up above,
when summer’s in the meadow, or tis hushed and white with snow.’

Aroused from fleeting fantasy, I faced the grim reality
of life devoid of sunshine in a world of hazy grey.
I stood upon a foreign shore, without direction or rapport,
marooned and isolated like a lonely castaway.

The pit they’d dug was bleeding mud, as heaven wept its tears of blood
which oozed like seeping lava from beneath the sodden mound.
When rain had doused the candle flame, the priest had hung his head in shame,
as if humiliated by the desecrated ground.

Psalm twenty seven’s long lament, had cued the coffin’s slow descent
and prompted one last prayer before the final curtain fell.
The mourners braved the murky sludge and made the mandatory trudge,
to gather by the graveside for a formal fare-thee-well.

An eerie atmosphere of gloom descended on the dismal tomb
as clods as cold as clay had tumbled in amongst the stone.
They smeared the rosewood reddish-brown and stained the casket’s polished crown,
with Mother Earth impatient now, to claim you as her own.

And now Kathleen you’re free to roam those hallowed fields of Irish loam
where angels sing in glory and exonerate your name.
Unleashed from Satan’s raven dog, you’re free of that infernal fog
to dance amongst the daffodils without remorse or shame.

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