The life of Reilly

by John Boland

My father, who was almost forty-one
when he married my mother, tells me now
that the happiest days he ever spent
were in a boarding house on Gardiner Street.

His present room looks out on a familiar view,
those Dublin mountains he made us climb
when Sunday afternons meant scenic spins
in a cramped Ford Anglia. I can still see

my mother’s eyes raised to timid heaven
each time he stopped for “one more little walk,”
and to this day I tiptoe through the hush
he’d summon later for the Sunday play. And now,

my mother gone, he occupies a bed not made by her
and observes how sixty years ago in a house
on Gardiner Street he had the life of Reilly.
Those are the words he uses. I stare out the window

at the familiar mountains and listen to this man
and his memories of how two spinster ladies
fussed over him as if he were their own,
of his civil service job, his fellow lodgers,

the cheery camaraderie of handball friends,
the pictures every Friday in the Metropole,
that week in Innsbruck when the world was young.
Old enough now to be his father, I watch in rage

as, in another rented room, women fuss over him,
and bring him all he needs, and make him laugh
more than he’s done in years. My mother smiles shyly
from his side table as they make his bed.

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