Sean Walsh

I live in Dublin, Ireland. Sometimes. Most times I live in my head, quite unaware of my surroundings – if you know what I mean… If you succeed in tracking Sean Walsh, please let me know, ok? I've been searching for him for years…

Jenny Emigrant

Published on Tuesday 27th August 2013 by Sean Walsh

When she took off I gave her a month,

‘month at the outside…

She’ll be back, nothing surer.

Head hanging, glad to be home, safe shelter.

Oh yeah, London’ll cure her cough…

 

Oh, Jenny, Jenny!..

What are you at, a tall a tall, daughter mine?..

I didn’t give you a hope – how could I?..

 Sure I knew the time would come

when you’d want to fly the nest. Sure I did.

But I wanted so much you to have

something going for you –

so you wouldn’t be going to nothing…

 

Learning the hard way…

Getting by on an apple and a Mars bar,

skimping on this, going without that,

maybe borrowing, on pay day, your fare to work.

You were lucky you didn’t end up sleeping

in a cardboard box on an arctic side-street…

 ‘Scratching and scraping at the bottom

of the barrel…

trying to get a foot on the first rung

of an endless ladder.

 Answering one small ad after another

after another… hoping for an interview –

chance, a chance, yet another chance –

to lie and bluff and bluster your way

into a no-hope job –

a number in a menial menagerie,

a cog on an insignificant wheel –

praying that this time – this time! –

you wouldn’t be caught, tripped up, checked out…

But the weeks passed. And the seasons…

She hung in there, held out, roughing it.

No way would she give in. Pride?.. But of course.

And a strong resolve to stand and give challenge.

But kept in touch – the occasional letter, phone call.

 

Came the day I booked a flight,

packed an overnight bag,

made a phone call, headed for Heathrow,

London Central…

I wanted to see my daughter, that’s the why!

 

– Jenny! Jenny, over here!
– Dad! Oh, it’s great to see you, Dad!
– God, you look –
– How are you? –
– Wait a minute!  Who’s saying what to who?!

– All right, then, we’ll start again, okay?

– Okay.

– Now… let me look at you… Hmmm…

– What, Dad, what?..

 – Well… For one thing, you’re too thin in the face

and too much on the hips…

– Dad-dddd!?

– You’ve been eating all the wrong food, I know, I can tell…

– Ah-hh, Dad…

– For another… I can’t take my eyes off you!

– Oh, Dad, that is so-oooo! –

– Jenny, my Jenny!..

 

 We walked and talked –

bumping, laughing, nodding, skirting, glancing,

taking each other’s measure –

until we came to a restaurant off a main street

that looked just the job…

How do you like your spaghetti, kiddo? Al dente?..

 To be honest, she was far more interested

in the homemade ice cream smothered

in chocolate sauce!

Over coffee she fished a camera

from a God Almighty hold-all –

and a passing waiter duly obliged.

Just you and me, Dadsers!..

And when she excused herself to go to the loo,

I knew she was having a quick drag.

But not in front of her old man.

Not yet. Not quite yet…

‘Came the time to finish, settle, tip –

 Grazie, tanta grazie!

 exit into the crisp night air,

the emptying streets… the Underground.

‘Have to leg it, Dad!

I to my hotel, she to her burrow in outer suburbia.

Down and down again… cavernous… dim lights…

echoing footsteps… eerie, outer-space noises…

We waited, platforming with the other,

gathering, late-nighters…

Will you be all right, Dad?

You know where to change?

Write, won’t you? Big long letter.

You have no idea how much it means to –

 

I stepped into an empty carriage,

turned, and our eyes met:

 Oh, but I do, I do… I’ll ring you, Jenny. Soon as I –

No! The doors edged shut and it was moving,

gathering sudden speed…

Jenny static, riveted,

eyes brimming, limp hand waving –

Then she was gone… I was gone.

The doors opened again at the next station…

In a way, they had closed for good.

And so much gone unsaid.

So much beyond and below the chatter,

chit chat, small talk…

A hundred – oh, a thousand – things

left unspoken, unshared… I to her, she to me.

Still only a child in ways, wee girl, my Jenny…

I, I left something of myself on that platform.

Behind, on that platform. And even if I wanted it back –

But I wouldn’t – wouldn’t ever want it back.

– God go with you, Jenny… I can’t…

Yes. Yes, that’s the way of it… No holding on.

Let her be… chart her own course… into deep water.

‘Had it framed. The print she sent me.

‘Not a great ‘photo, not much of a camera, but still…

Here, on the mantlepiece… by the clock.

When I light the fire of a winter’s evening,

switch on the occasional lights,

it seems to catch the glow…

Jenny. Jenny and me…

Arm in arm in El Corvo –

a chocolate-sauce-over-ice-cream

ristorante.

Copyright © 2020 Sean Walsh

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