‘Prayers in a Foreign Field’ © Joe Canning 2019. All Rights Reserved.

‘Prayers in a Foreign Field’
© Joe Canning 2019. All Rights Reserved.

Joe Canning ‘ A look at Ireland in verse’

The bells rang out at 6am, at noon and six at night,
To still the lands and living rooms for just a little while.
As eighteen times the hammer struck,
The old folk stood in prayer,
On genuflected bended knee,
Or leaned on creaking chair.

On grandma’s wall a picture, of workers in the field,
Ceasing tiring labours to indulge in thankful deed,
A schoolboy, I of seven years, watched on in puzzling awe,
At the emanating whispers coming from those whispering jaws.

Three times a day the call it came,
From the Angelus bells aloft,
Stirring little sister as she gurgled in her cot.
Turf sod hissed and warmed the room,
And mother stood head bowed with broom.
And Da released his grip from bowl of tae.

Hail Mary’s by the score were said,
Before they ushered me to bed,
Ignoring my tirade of protestations.
I’d say, “but Ma! it’s bright outside,
I’ll never sleep, it’s still daylight”,
A cough from Da confirmed I knew my station.

I chanced upon that print again,
When clearing out my garret space,
It seemed to say; “I need my rightful place”.
And so with tender loving care,
I cleaned that print of yesteryear,
And now with pride it hangs upon my wall.

Admittedly, I do not pray as much as those of yesterday,
Nor practice now, the things the old folk taught.
But slowly I am coming round as Father Time is gaining ground,
And like that farming field, my face is furrowed
Perhaps at noon or six of morn or 6pm I might reform,
And find that faith I witnessed in the others.

But Oh! How much that painting tells,
Of that French field and distant bells,
Where Millet’s brush gave us his skilled creation.
Of peasants praying for lost souls,
Hanging in our homes on walls.
Reminding all of blessed Incarnations.

Image | The Angelus (L’Angélus) by French painter Jean-François Millet, completed between 1857 and 1859

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