The Slap

by t t

Rockfield Drive, Terenure, 1960

Disrupted while playing a Haydn quartet
by the yowled complaint of his youngest son,
your father came to where all of us were at play
and, without any ado, slapped you across the face.
I can hear it still, that whack, and can still see
the fiddle tucked under his left arm as he turned
on his heel to resume his music-making.

Your shuddered sobs at the injustice of it all
remain with me even now. Life was seldom fair
to you, Valerie, not in those early teenage years
when you were still a free and giddy spirit,
and not later when it all got too much for you,
wasting away to an early death and mourned
by a father who’d grieved for your mother, too.

I visited him in his last year. A cherished friend
and fellow musician was also there and they talked
of the golden age of song, of John McCormack
and Kathleen Ferrier, and the joys of Haydn, too,
and of beloved spouses and daughters snatched away
too soon, though not from memory: ‘Never a day
goes by…’ I wish you could have heard them.

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