The Web Poetry Corner - James Bredin - To Hell or Havana
To Hell or Havana
Hurry up McGillacuddy, you’ll soon be on your way.
No more you’ll hunt the pheasants with a shotgun by the bay,
No more you’ll watch the farmers cutting turf down by the bogs,
Or sheep up on the mountains being herded by the dogs.
You’ll seldom hear the pipes again or watch the colleens dance.
You’ll join the long tradition; no there’s not a single chance,
That there’s work for you in Ireland; the economy is dead.
It’s nineteen fifty four my boy; too many mouths to be fed
Hurry up McGillacuddy show them that you’re keen,
Get on that dock and board that ship you’re almost seventeen.
Don’t show them that your heart is broke or that you want to cry,
You’re proud to be an Irishman so hold your head up high.
This ship is packed with emigrants from England, Scotland, Wales.
They’re singing blimey British songs and telling taller tales.
They say you’ve got a brogue my friend and that you’re young and green,
Your patriotic pride is hurt when you’re almost seventeen.
Hurry up McGillacuddy you’re a stranger on your own.
The loneliness you’ve come to know hurts right down to the bone.
You’ll never fish the Fergus or walk Rinanna hunting hare.
These strangers here don’t know your world nor do they even care.
That place you knew just the other day; it’s gone forever now.
Was it all just an illusion -- another world somehow?
Where are those voices that you heard -- the choir in the church?
When you had all the answers and no god-forsaken search.
Hurry up McGillacuddy forget all you have done.
Canadian Immigration waits at Pier twenty-one.
They’ll process you in a minute flat and send you on your way.
You’re one of a thousand immigrants came to Halifax today.
The train is long and crowded too; no time for much emotion,
Past names like Shibinacadie it glides in locomotion.
Trapped days and nights in a carriage tight with your loneliness and pride,
You have to endure this steady strain and take it in your stride.
Hurry up McGillacuddy you’re going to shovel shit,
On a farm near Burlington; it wont hurt your pride a bit.
Three milk machines and a washcloth rag with forty Holstein cows,
In a barn big as a cathedral, some goats, some pigs, some sows.
And when you’re done with milking and feeding all that pork,
There’s a meadow with bales of hay as big as County Cork.
These farmers are a dour lot with harrows hoes and ploughs,
They toss those bales of hay all day and then milk forty cows.
Hurry up McGillacuddy, time to change career,
Your pay is nearly nothing; this slavery austere,
And the loneliness that lingers and haunts you day and night,
On a vast expanse of farm where you have no birthright.
You’re off to join the navy and you’re going back to sea,
But first to Cornwallis where you dare not disagree.
It’s yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir and running all around.
And when you’re finished marching you better go pipe down.
Hurry up McGillacuddy you’re on a navy ship,
And when you’re old enough, they’ll give you lots of rum to sip.
You’re an able seaman signalman; read those flags and flashing lights.
You’re off to the Caribbean and maybe see some sights.
It was midnight in Havana when Batista ruled the day,
And Castro ruled the hills but you had to spend your pay.
That girl with hair as black as coal, she lured you into sin,
Did you go to confession yet; how long has it been?