One pint of my eight is Irish,
and perhaps it was this arm
which helped me play
a credible whistle and flute
in the Holloway Road,
to approving ex-pat navvies
and artisans, attired in Sunday suit;
the boys with the black stuff,
six to the bar in the Victoria.
Within me stirs my mother’s mother’s mother,
‘Tipperary Mary’ or some such,
unmentioned in my youth;
the shade of the asylum blots our escutcheon,
where suburban petty bourgeois joins
respectable working class.
Blood will out, or so they say,
though I’d replace the ‘will’ with ‘may’,
but if it does, it lures us blind, unknowing,
uncertain where it is we’re going.
From the mirror, my father returns my look,
a checking reproach from beyond.
More happily, from my hand his cursive script,
with antique serifs, flows across the page,
or at least, a spirited reflection.
By god, the old man could handle a pen!
Of this one thing I’m sure: that from our past
is our present partly made,
experience and inheritance,
and each day’s deeds our futures make.
Composites are we, formed of others;
aspects reappear of fathers,
great-grandmothers and more,
like ancient strata revealed
by time’s erosion,
or house remains exposed
in time of drought when lakes fall low;
breaking through, unbidden,
sometimes unwelcome, to the present;
incongruous or strangely apposite
according to circumstance.