When they were beginning to build a countrysome of the men came to hide in a housewhere there was a family, and a child upstairs,listening. They told him what to say if anyone
ever asked. Say they were never there.Say there was only a family in that house.And during the night the boy went to the roomwhere their bags and belongings were hidden.
He felt along the canvases, the mouldy wetand sag of the straps. His fingers touched onpapers and coins, and lifted out the revolver,its coolness and the weight of it in his hands.
Then he felt nothing. His blood crept slowlyand dark along the floorboards, underneath them,and the room shook, and stood still,and seemed to hang for a moment in that night.
When they found him they cleaned him,his face, gently and quickly, and his motherwrapped him in a blanket and took himout to a corner of the farm and buried him.
Back in the house they gathered his things,and built up a fire again in the kitchen,burning his clothes, his shoes, all the signsand small, clumsy turnings of a child.
And afterwards, in the freezing dark, the fatherwent out to find the doctor and the parish priestto tell them what had happened, and what theyshould say if anyone ever asked. [End Page 321]
That one who came tapping at the window,brown-suited, upright at dawn, my fathersaid was his father flown home for summerto help outside where our help wouldn’t do,and began to wink and talk to the old manabout changes here, the new cow house,or how he broke those lower fields into one,keeping always straight and almost serious.
That was remembered again today, stirredin the spring-ground of the milking shedwhere light softens beyond the stallsand shafts, and I heard a song thrush call,bright, unexpected and familiar.Where I turned, and almost began to answer.
Leanne O’Sullivan was born in 1983 and comes from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. She is the author of three poetry collections, published by Bloodaxe Books—Waiting for My Clothes (2004), Cailleach: The Hag of Beara (2009) and The Mining Road (2013). She has been the recipient of several awards including the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award (2009, nominated by Michael Longley), The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature (2010), The Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry (2011), and the UCC Alumni Achievement Award (2012). She is currently Writer in Residence at University College Cork.
Sparrow: “Safe House” and “Sparrow” are reprinted courtesy of Bloodaxe Books. Both appear in The Mining Road, which was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in April 2013, and will appear in the United States in September. [End Page 322]