Praise Of Risk
You have nothing to lose?
Is there really a risk?
Down on your knees, heaving, sick.
Gasps of dank breath,
no toothpaste, no strength.
Risk going out?
Risk staying in.
Crawling through life,
crippled with debt.
You’ve already lost it all.
Is there really a risk?
Nothing left to give,
but frustration’s lament.
Not giving up,
not giving in,
lyrics meant to strengthen them.
Weakening you fall again,
nothing to lose,
nothing to give.
There is only one thing left.
Resolve, however weak.
Here lies the risk.
Lose that crumb, that penny, that speck.
Truly lose it all.
No matter how dark.
Must not give up.
Must not give in.
My Father said that peril was the gatekeeper of life.
A concept not readily embraced by the mind of a boy.
He also said that obedience from a child and a wife
was a man’s entitlement. Do not retort. Do not annoy.
Do not argue. Do not disagree. Do not express want.
Pray. Praise. Respect. Listen. Obey. Do not engage
arrogance or pride. And when Mother was raped I was mute.
When her wounds wept, I shivered with frozen rage.
learned peril by this, the welts on my buttocks
and the cupboard’s darkness. Locked in compliance.
Belittled. Afraid. Angry. Ashamed. And then mocked
for these. I dreamed in my head that one day giants
or heros would come. She died. I was ten. She was blue.
He cursed into glasses of malt and I cried, but not loud.
Then I grew and he shrank as he drank as I grew
and I knew the Gatekeeper was lost and yet found.
I was his peril. He lay in his bed, in his sickening ego
still ranting and spewing out desperate prayers.
I took Mother’s hand and I never let go.
The pillow felt soft as I walked up the stairs.
Dawn was breaking as I started the car. I had twenty empty bags on the back seat. The sun was peeping up from a grey horizon creating an amber arc. The sigh of it warmed me and splashed strength on to my wounded heart. Slowing down at the zebra crossing at the bottom of the road I sawLance, the postman and it struck me as I watched him drop his bag and run up the driveway of number seven that I had not cried this time. This time my overwhelming feeling was of relief. Lance had muscles on the back of his legs that were as taut as those of a dancer in Riverdance. Through my open window, I could hear him whistle as he flew through his quotidian routine. I drew away from the crossing and pushed my sunglasses up further on my nose. No, I had not cried this time. Maybe it was because it was one betrayal too many, maybe because I had grown tired of being constantly crushed, discouraged and sneered at, or, it could have been the constant diet of derision. There were bundles of twine-tied newspapers in the doorway of the newsagents. Two of the staff was on the footpath, their upturned faces catching the first of the sun’s rays as they waited for admittance. They were oblivious to a young man with a ‘stag party’ tee shirt and blue shorts tied to a lamppost nearby. His companion also wearing the identical tee was holding on to the lamppost as he puked every ten seconds. The missile containing the former contents of his stomach was shaped like a dialogue bubble in a comic strip as it soared over his head momentarily before landing at his feet where it now resembled a map of Jamaica. One more left turn and I saw the apartment we had shared for seven years. Tall and stately it had been built at a time when Ireland had a more distinct class divide. I waited to see if your car was there. It wasn’t. I waited to see if your neighbours were awake. They weren’t. I opened the door for the last time with my keys. Slowly I filled the bags I had brought with me. My entire wardrobe, my harmonica, my photos, my DVD's, my scrabble game, my thesaurus, my crossword books, my cd’s my remembered kisses and the last few years of my life filled them to the brim. It took me forty minutes to clear the room that was once a sanctuary into a vacuum. When my work was done I packed the car closed the door and pushed my keys in through the letterbox, and drove away onto the open road of my life savouring the risk I had taken. It was so…worth it. At the florists I chose a bouquet of twelve pink roses. The assistant asked if I’d like it delivered. I said ‘Absolutely’ and welcomedthe future.
Read this and other winning entries in The Canon archive.