Original: Fall 1950, Spring 1951, or possibly as late as 1953. In back pews of church near front door, a weekday before morning Mass had begun.
He bellowed till his milky whiskers flew
The old man coming through the door at church
His sailor face was thinly pink and blue
“Good Morning! ’Morning! Very chilly, ho!”
Her aging head tossed upward with a lurch
The frail old lady with the skin of snow
From pale at first her face came bright with joy
And she was carried back to smiling girl
By this outspoken greeting from a bold young boy.
Do bhéic sé as, a fhéasóg ina stoirm,
I gcúl an tséipéil seanfhear beoga ann,
A mhuir-aghaidhse go tanaí bándearg gorm
“Á, Dia dhuit ar maidin! Fuar! Hó!”
Is í, de phreab, ag caitheamh suas a ceann
An tseanbhean chlaon le sneachta ina snó
Ó ghné an bháis go glé-ghné áthasach.
Is í ar ais mar chailín álainn óg
As beannacht tugtha di ó bhuachaill teanntásach.
Version in Irish: 21 January, 2004
Réamonn Ó Cléirigh
Comment: I don't know where the church was. It was a fairly cold morning on a weekday and I arrived at the church early, I knelt in a pew a little way in from the front door and then sat back to wait for the priest to start the Mass. There were only a few people in the whole church. Right across the center aisle from me there was an old woman with her hat on and she looked very pale. Suddenly, this old man comes in from outside. He had whiskers and his face was blue and pink, maybe from the cold. I thought he looked like a rough old sailor. He burst out with a loud voice and the exact words he said are in the poem. The lady was shocked. I saw her glare at him. And then she begins to change. She smiled and her whole face became brighter. She looked pretty. All this really happened.
Later, I wrote this poem. I took the real thing that happened and tried to make it go further, beyond the real. I made the lady become a young girl again, like when she was eight or nine years old. And the old man, because he didn't learn good manners yet, I made him out to be a kind of fresh boy, who made the young girl laugh at the loud way he said hello. In my imagination I saw them as a young boy and a young girl again. I felt good about it. It made me smile. Maybe it will make you smile.