As luck would have it, we were married this day
exactly half a century ago.
We holiday with our small family
to avoid the inevitable party
and announce our golden wedding to friends
via Facebook – and receive some humbling
encouragements that speak not simply
of being there like pebbles as the tide
ebbs and flows but of inspiration.
We chose to honeymoon by Bantry Bay.
Ireland spoke of mystery and romance –
to us ignorant of its privations.
As we drove through the town that August Sunday,
the sun lowering over the Atlantic,
some church festival was finishing.
A wedding guest had hidden confetti
in our suitcase so, as you unpacked our clothes
for the first time, gaudy paper disks fluttered
over the bed beneath The Sacred Heart.
Our week was ended with upset stomachs.
We had had lunch – potatoes, carrots, bacon –
in a dark panelled restaurant in Cork,
surrounded by unsmiling nuns and priests.
We were infidels in Calvary land.
On the return ferry, to save money,
we spent the night in armchairs in the bar.
Before midnight a gale blew up that rolled us
forty five degrees starboard to port and back.
We could see ships nearby in Liverpool Bay
bucking as in a cartoon of a tempest.
Behind the bar’s locked grills, glasses and bottles
shattered. Bench seats along the saloon’s sides
broke free and two lines of strangers grinning
with fear briefly curtsied to each other.
‘Strange to be there, beginning something new,’
I wrote that autumn. ‘Strange to go there,
hoping for what might come.’ The narrow fields
and lanes seemed untouched since the Great Hunger –
yet the dry stone walls were festooned for miles
with wild fuchsia and honeysuckle. Now
it seems as if we had known that we would learn there
how to weather sickness, storms – and bask in joy.