JOB WILKS AND THE RIVER (Michael Coady)
"...of the 56th regiment, who died accidentally by drowning, at Carrick-on-Suir, 17 July 1868, in his 28th year."
I feel that I know you, Job Wilks -
No imperial trooper swaggering
these servile Tipperary streets
before my grandfather drew breath,
but a country lad out of Hardy
drunk on payday and pining for Wessex,
flirting with Carrick girls
in fetid laneways after dark
out of step on parade to Sunday service
with comrades who loved you enough
to raise out of soldiers' pay this stone
which would halt my feet among nettles
now that jackdaws are free in the chancel,
Communion plate lies deep
in the dark of a bank vault,
and spinster daughter of the last rector,
in a home for the aged,
whispers all night to an only brother
dead these forty years in Burma.
How commonplace, Job Wilks, how strange
that this should be where
it would end for you, twenty-eight
summers after the midwife washed you.
With that first immersion
you took your part
in the music of what happens,
and an Irish river was flowing
to meet you, make you intimate clay
of my town.
On a July day of imperial sun
did your deluged eyes find
vision of Wessex, as Suir water
sang in your brain?
I know the same river you knew, Job,
the same sky and hill and stone bridge:
I hope there were Carrick girls with tears
for a country lad out of Hardy,
drunk on payday and pining