Poetry

Till You Hear the Cuckoo Call

 For Fr Brendan O’Callaghan

Two youngsters on their hillside,

They grew up strong and tall,

Together fished the river,

Together played football.

At eighteen years, the parting—

The one to tend his beasts,

His neighbour to the seminary

To be a priest.

For sixty years, unbroken,

The farmer held his ground,

Married, raised a family,

In mind and body sound;

And then, his old bones aching

From years of toil and chill,

One winter his wife persuades him

To come in from the hill,

That his sons could mind the farm

While he stayed in from the blast

But it played upon his conscience

That he was missing Mass.

Come Lent and in the local church

A Penance Service, though

He still calls it “Confession”

As he learned years ago.

He’s driven to “Confession”

Where, to his surprise,

His old neighbour’s on the altar

With the other priests this night.

Old friendship not forgotten,

He goes to Father Mick

Who greets him like a brother

And asks him how he is.

The farmer makes confession

Laying bare his life,

Telling his confessor

That, out of love, his wife

Has kept him in this winter,

That he’s been missing Mass,

That it bothers him each Sunday

Now the cows are out in grass.

Father Mick is listening

To his neighbour baring all,

“Let you not be in any hurry”, he says,

“Till you hear the cuckoo call”;

For the priest was once a farmer

And worked this windswept hill

And, absolving his old neighbour,

Brings him from the chill,

The chill that is his conscience,

That doesn’t understand

That a time comes when a farmer

Must come in from his land.

And, absolved of his great burden,

He stands up strong and tall

Singing, “I need be in no hurry

Till I hear the cuckoo call”.

“I need be in no hurry

Till I hear the cuckoo call”.

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