Eugene O’Hare, Letter to my mother, five years sober


those cheap vodka hangovers were wretched.
i sometimes thought the greatest tragedy
of your drinking years was that you couldn’t
afford the good stuff. even in your unrestrained rages
i felt you deserved Lemorton calvados, & an
exclusive wine cellar dug out below the understairs cupboard
where all our junk got dumped among the busted
hoover hose you mended with strips of parcel tape.

who’d have thought you would end up working
at the hospital, aged sixty, with your little watch that tells you
how many steps you’ve taken on a single shift?
yesterday it was five thousand and fifty-three;
you told me on speakerphone
as you pulped nine celery sticks in a juicer.
i remember mornings when the look of celery
would have turned your guts. those hated school mornings
when nobody could find the plastic brush for my sister’s hair,
so she went to school feeling self-conscious and unloved.
there was much to hate back there —
apart from the cast of Cheers and any old country song
with simple rhymes we could all remember.

i’m writing this on a train, stalled in the Cotswolds.
the fields look so peaceful. two rabbits chase each other
soundlessly over wet grass. then the train rumbles up
and soon we move fast as if chasing something
that got away; a day in the past, perhaps, that needs put right.
let it go. so much was broken. everyone was loved.

Eugene O’Hare was born in Ireland. His plays are published by Methuen. Recently his poetry has featured in The Irish News, Crossways, Fortnight, The Galway Review, and Razur Cuts.

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