Upon Request: A Poem to Commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Irish Farmers Association

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My mother’s first cousin,

My mother’s first cousin,

he was a farmer.

We visited when I was a child,

I have a vague memory of cows.

Grandad was a creamery manager.

We played in the creamery yard,

climbed inside a big silvery tank,

probably sterile, waiting for milk.

Granny fed us fat milk, eggs

fresh from the hen, butter with everything.

I broke out in hives, a city child

accustomed to margarine and pavements.

By the time my mother could afford

the luxury of butter

I’d outgrown the hives,

Buíochas le Dia.

My aunt, she almost married a farmer

but backed away at the thought

of hardy men in wellingtons

traipsing through her kitchen.

My mother would have gloried in the life.

She joined the ICA, loved to recount

what her doctor said: You have the bones,

Mrs Corish, of a strong farmer’s wife.

Much good it did her.

She’s gone now, along with the man

my aunt didn’t marry and the three farms

my great-grandfather drank. All I know

is farms and farmers lost,

and a whispery memory:

the hot breath of cows, churns full to the brim

with creamy milk, the taste of gold on my tongue.

Monica Corish