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A Story Told Backwards

By Colm Scully

There are seventeen people at Nan’s funeral rosary  

with nobody in the front row.

The last time she had a crowd like this was three years ago

at her hundredth birthday.

Kay and Mary smiling in the picture as the cake was cut,

Nan passing slices around the room.

If only her brother could have been there.

Fifteen years her junior, she had cared for him until his final turn.

Manoeuvring him around the makeshift bedroom out front.

When he had come home that day from England he was like a stranger to her,

recounting stories of his great life across the water.

The house in Green Lawn had been so quiet for years before that.

Good neighbours and friends, and the bus into town.

When the last of her cousins’ children from Bantry finished college

she thought for a while about taking in lodgers.

Manus had qualified as a doctor

before that his sister had not finished Art in the Crawford.

She had done a painting of Lough Hyne and hung it in the hall.

Her cousin Ashling, a very quiet girl, was the first to arrive

one September.

That was barely twelve months after Dominic died.

His worn out body laid out in the Cancer ward.

They had cuddled close when the doctor gave him the bad news.

Work had been a struggle for him for a while before that

and she found it frustrating, not knowing why he had changed.

Pottering around the place, while she was doing housework.

They had been so happy.

Holidays in that little chalet in Tragumna, 

long walks through Lisard House into Skibb’, 

and making love in the creaky little bed, hoping the neighbours hadn’t arrived yet.

She had met him on a coach tour out of Long Island.

A Grey Hound bus down to Washington DC.

As they passed through Baltimore he had yelled out from the back 

“Yah, my home town.” 

She knew instinctively what he meant.

When Mrs Murdock died, she somehow had felt marked out by the world.

She knew she was too old to have children, and love was just a fading dream.

The son had cheated her out of the House in Vermont

that Mary Murdock had promised her. 

Some deal had gone on between him and the lawyer.

Three days before her boss was sent into the home 

she had slipped a wad of  money into Nan’s hand bag.

Hundred Dollar Bills.

They were like friends really, friends where Nan did the driving.

All around Rockaway, and up to New England for the Summer.

That was her third job after she emigrated

--House keeper for a Mature lady- Must have References--.

The Toll booth job on Brooklyn bridge had been so boring

she had decided to go into domestic service. 

In spite of the stern advice of her father back in Ireland. 

“You’ll end up as a penniless spinster.”

He almost crushed her hand as he bade her goodbye on Cobh Pier.

He wanted to hug and kiss her but he didn’t know how.

He knew he would never see her again.

On the train up to Cork with him the same tune kept on going through her head.

--The Andrew Sisters

He had confiscated the record from her when she was working in Shop Street.

She wondered where it had ended up.

She loved working in Callanans.

Mrs C would send her out on endless errands, the trade was so quiet.

“Pop down to Cooney’s and get me change of a half a crown,

 and tell them War has broken out in Europe”. 

As she entered the grocers she saw the two Murphy girls sitting 

by the window sharing an ice cream.

Nan smiled at Kay and tossed her curly hair  

“Down from Cork for the summer, my little loves?”


Colm Scully from Douglas, Cork is a  Poet, Poetryfilm maker and Chemical Engineer. He has been published in many journals including, Cyphers, Abridged, Crannog, Skylight 47 and Philosophy Now. His first collection, What News, Centurions? was published by New Binary Press. He has won the Cúirt New Writing Prize and been selected for Poetry Ireland Introductions. He has been making Poetry Films for about 8 years and likes to collaborate. His films have been shown at festivals in Europe, Asia and America. He won Best Animation at MicroMania Film Fest, Buffalo in 2021 and Best Smart Phone Production at Rabbits Heart Poetry Film Fest in 2019. His  collaboration with Mags Creedon was runner up in The Ekphrastic Poetry Film Comp. at Lyra Poetry Festival Bristol 2022.


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