Not Long Before My Father Died, He Changed His Mind by Finbar Lillis

Not long before my father died,
He changed his mind.

You are all carrying on, he said.

And leaving me behind.

I don’t want to be burned and scattered

over there on Corrin Hill.

Let me stay here with you all.

Let me be here

with you still.

He was buried so.

And in due course,

A black headstone

Took the place

of the undertaker’s

temporary wooden cross.


One everlasting afternoon,

We belted down the road

where we once lived.

Steady now he said,

There are cars parked left and right.

I clipped a Morris Minor

and said shite.

It’s ok he said, getting out.

It’s just a scratch.

Across the road,

a net curtain slid along a wire.

An unseen hand

Fiddled with a latch.

They’ll be out here in a minute now, he said.

He was shading his eyes against the sun,

Standing as his mother would have done.

How are you, how is it there, I said.

Neither of us mentioned he was dead.

It’s not too bad really, he replied.

The last few frames flickered and then died.

Someone’s coming out to see us now, he sighed.

I put the temporary cross into the car.

I couldn’t leave it rotting in the grass

Beside his marble headstone

Glittering like glass.


Corrin Hill is just outside Fermoy.

My dad lay on its sides

In the summer

As a boy.

Lying on his back

beside his brother Mick.

The never-ending froachán

in their mouths

Shooting larks above them

With a stick.


I took the sander to the cross

Polished the brass plate

that had his name on

with a cloth.

Varnishing the timber with a tin

Of Wilko’s gloss.

Driving on my long diagonal down

I passed over the Blackwater

Up and out of Fermoy town.

And stopped at Corrin Hill.

I took the cross out of the back

And put it with a mallet in a sack.

No prayers are needed now, he said.

Listen to the larks above your head,

Their holy sound.

I took the mallet in my hand

And whacked the cross into the ground.

note: ‘froachan’, blue berry, bilberry, vaccinium myrtilllu