by James McAuley

James McAuley

In tabletalk my father used to tell
Of the escaped nun kidnapped by a priest;
Or innocent girls in the confessional,
Closeted in the dark with some gross beast.
By contrast, Anglican restraint was good:
It kept religion in its proper place.—
What all this talk was for, I understood
Only long after; but it left a trace.
In an unguarded moment once, I drew
Deserved rebuke for letting on I had
A plan of reading the whole Bible through:
He thought this a quick way of going mad.
On relatives my parents were agreed:
Too much association doesn't do,
And doubly so with the bog-Irish breed—
They're likely to want something out of you.
On friendship too the doctrine was as cold:
They're only making use of you you'll find;
Prudence consists in learning to withhold
The natural impulse of the sharing mind.
What is the wisdom that a child needs most?
Ours was distrust, a coating behind the eye
We took in daily with the mutton roast,
The corned-beef salad, and the shepherd's pie.

Collected Poems 1936-1970

Last updated January 14, 2019