‘The Folk By The Roadside’ © Joe Canning 2017. All Rights Reserved.

‘The Folk By The Roadside’
© Joe Canning 2017. All Rights Reserved.

SEE: Joe Canning’s Poetry Page on Facebook

Piebald ponies grazed on a roadside swathe.
Twig and branch burned under black pot,
Mothers stirred their broths of turnip and rabbit.
Hands and complexions ravaged by cruel winds.

Few words were exchanged with passing strangers,
Earrings large as necklaces dangled to the shoulder.
Bangle dressed wrists glinted in the sun of the day.
A way of life played out on the green verge.

Tarpaulin dwellings, arch shaped; sheltered
Mucky faced urchins peering from within.
A collie dog tethered, deterred the unwelcome.
Flashing fangs dissuaded any alien incursion.

The old men nodded as if to say good day.
Sometimes I was asked if I could spare a copper.
Assured always, that good luck would come my way,
I rarely refused; many a coin I imparted.

Village doors were rapped many times,
Tin plates tinkered, offered at knock down prices,
Leaking buckets repaired on the doorsteps.
Hints that a piece of bread and jam would be nice.

My mother, bless her, never failed at charity,
Our ‘too small for us clothes’, were recycled;
Although she drew the line at financial donation;
Were she to detect a whiff of alcohol on the breath.

Later I would study the origins of people.
Discover facts and ways and of a race that is ancient.
Condemn revisionist insults, promote due respect;
For they were my people, the folk by the roadside.

Image: Irish Travellers by Heather Buckley Photography


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Stair na hÉireann is steeped in Ireland's turbulent history, culture, ancient secrets and thousands of places that link us to our past and the present. With insight to folklore, literature, art, and music, you’ll experience an irresistible tour through the remarkable Emerald Isle.