Padraig – Who Drove the Snakes Out of Ireland
At the allotment, daddy
forked the crumbly black earth
till the air quaked
of excess, me
in search of treasure;
the robin sat, pert, on the lip
of the bucket meant to carry
spuds or cabbages, the occasional
back to placate the mammy.
The bird’s eye bright
with a lust for worms, his song
a crystal cataract of merry;
though none of the seeds we sowed
ever showed head out of the sly earth
and we saw nothing of the slow worm
daddy promised so that, his name being Padraig too,
I guessed he must be a saint, especially
when he himself vanished.
Though he turned up
at the end of school
again and again and again till
I had to tell the mammy
where the books and toys came from
and that got me sent off
to board at St. Bridget’s convent
where the head nun was nice to you
if your mammy gave her fruit cake in a tin,
bottles of orange linctus sherry, a crocheted shawl
like frothy cobwebs, none of which
my mammy could afford, Padraig
having banished more than snakes.
Pratibha Castle’s award-winning debut pamphlet A Triptych of Birds and A Few Loose Feathers (Hedgehog Poetry Press) publishes 2021. An Irish poet living in England, her work appears in literary magazines including Agenda, Dreich, HU, Blue Nib. Highly Commended in various poetry competitions, she reads regularly on West Wilts Radio.