Memories and Mass, Guinness and Google

When I was a child, a lot of my summer holidays were spent in Ireland.  My mother, Bridget, is from County Kerry, and my father, Bernie, was from County Mayo.

Kerry was where we spent most time. In those days, I was too young to be an atheist, thank God.  Though I don’t think I was particularly keen on going to Mass on a Sunday morning, it was the done thing.  I have vague memories of it, probably a mish-mash of memories in fact.

It’s hard to separate individual memories from each year of your life. And when you revisit a place over several years, the memories tend to overlay each other, a bit like an artist might add layer upon layer to the same picture.

I have this aggregated memory of Mass in Ballydonoghue, near Lisselton in Kerry. The memory says that there was a pub just over the road, and that the men of the parish congregated near the door of the church, as if making a token appearance, and not wanting to be too far from the pub when it opened.  I know most of this memory is accurate, but just to prove some of it, I’ve used Google Maps to verify that the pub (Cantillon’s) is indeed right opposite the church.

Here’s the pub:

Cantillon's pub

Cantillon's pub

Here’s the church:

Ballydonogue church (St. Teresa's)

Ballydonogue church (St. Teresa's)

and here’s the steeple poem:

Mass in the West of Ireland

the men in their shiny arsed suits

gather close to the door

inhale the incense, the mothball aroma of their neighbour’s Sunday best

endure the droning of the priest,

who denounces the idleness of men

the sinfulness of women

they feel ferocious thirsts building

their minds have wandered

to the pub where the publican is pulling pints of porter

letting them stand, almost full, on the bar

foaming, settling, forming voluptuous heads

waiting for the appreciative lips, mouths, tongues of the restless church bound men.

one breaks ranks, sidles out the door

the others look sheepishly at each other and sidle, dribble

across the road to slake their thirsts

knowing that they have, barely, done their duty for the week

they can, with an almost clear conscience

drown their sins in the landlord’s best beer.

© Mike Hopkins 2011
(This poem was published in Friendly Street New Poets 16 by Wakefield Press in 2011)

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One thought on “Memories and Mass, Guinness and Google

  1. Tis a fine poem, to be sure! Nice one Mike, lots of great imagery, I could see the guys slink off to their salvation, and I can see the women left behind, damning them, loving them, forgiving them.

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