Peter Fallon


Long before the father died
there was something the matter
with your man
but that's when he took to the fields.
He slept the latter

dozen years sheltered
near sheughs, in winter sheds.
He'd hoosh the heifers
from their lying
and settle down in their grass beds.

A woman left him dinner
in a dish.
Sometimes he'd take it,
more he wouldn't.
They'd a wish

that he'd come home
but not a hope.
He was wed to the four winds.
You might as well be rowing
with a rope

as ask. He kept within
a hen's race
of the place, seldom seen
but sometimes heard,
the base

sound that he made
all laugh
and no laughter.
His beard a bush,
he was chaff

of the whole world's threshing.
Wodwo. Sweeney. Troll,
who did no wrong.
They took him handcuffed
to the hospital

and clipped his nails.
He stirs early
still, a child of fields and gripes,
the intimacy of open air,
and whispers near an orderly

about himself as someone else:
He's not the sort who dares
the devil in his den.
He wouldn't try to teach
the priest his prayers

but they, they know
it all, that crowd.
Let them sing loudly
when they've harrowed
all he's ploughed.

Peter Fallon, News of the World, Wake Forest
University Press, 1998.