Cards were in our blood.
Dabbling with clock patience, rummy, canasta,
But always back to all jacks –
Don’t forget to say “last card!”
Then the cousins from South Armagh
Taught us pontoon and seven card stud
On and on into the night…
The knaves left and the wildness drifted away.
We left it at that,
But aces became the tools of your trade.
Amstedam is the city
You called home for so many years –
We met in a bar – you were too high on skunk
To be present.
We met on the street – you, former croupier,
Selling the paper…
Years later the only way to contact you was via Z
– “Dad is sick, come when you can” –
You raced back,
You were ready to leave those streets.
A few photographs,
Your noble features captured in a bust.
You nursed Dad
He barely noticed you.
Then you nursed Mum
Day after day
Of invisible work
While you painted,
Earned your belts,
An organic vegan
Living the purest life.
Cards returned –
You who had been too good at cheat,
Who dazzled us with your professional shuffle,
Paid by the Casino
On Friday, bet all your wages
Broke by Saturday,
Now dealing out
Memory games for Mum;
Homegrown occupational therapy…
The stack collapsed:
Mum and you
At her funeral you were in a wheelchair.
You fought and fought!
The hospital chaplain called it a miracle
When nurses of all creeds
Carried you down the steps
To the Chapel for your
The next day you made it home!
And – SNAP!
You were gone.
All too suddenly
All too soon.
Death’s dealing from our deck now.
Covid has postponed
Of your last wishes…
We have nothing but time.
With a last shuffle
Of your cards
You will bring your scattered siblings
We will spread your ashes
In het Amsterdamse bos
To drift across your home from home.
Cathal Quinn is Artistic Director of Mouth on Fire and Guthanna Binne Síoraí Theatre Companies and Head of Voice at The Lir, TCD.