Poem in Which a Visitor Asks After Christie

“Christie? Sure didn’t he drown himself?”

“He’d a fine head on him for drowning,
and the age of him. Come on.
Didn’t he fall into the lake at night, the creature?”

“If he did it was a fierce coincidence.
Maggie said he was lonesome after Nell;
we didn’t see him in the village for a month.
Wasn’t it Maggie herself raised the alarm;
told the oldest Jordan buck to look for him,
went out herself with her torch and wellies.
It was them that found the body. Called the guards.
She’s never told a sinner soul about it.
The Jordan fella either, she made him promise.
No, there was nothing accidental about Christie.”

“I can’t believe that now, that’s shaken me.
And him a fine looking, a sensible man.
He used to help my father with the turf.
You’d have thought he’d have more sense.”

“Sense? And when did sense come into it
when you’re on your own looking into the fire
all winter? Nights is long.
When Nell was alive he didn’t lift a cup.
She had him like a child –he was her child,
as close as she ever came one, anyways.
He took it awful bad. Stopped going to Mass
and everything. Failed shocking in the walk.”

“So he could have fallen in?”

“How’s that?
He’d watch falling in, you mark my words.”

“He left a note then?”

“What? A note for who:
the cow? Cop yourself on now, will you.
It’d take the whole day itself to sign his name.
A note. He left nothing, except a mess.
Some nephew of his in London got the lot;
one of your mob, a cockney, out in Epping.
I’m sure he never called when they were living,
that’s how it goes. I bet he rubbed his hands.”

“Maggie should have got it.”

“Mighty woman,
Maggie. She must be 85 if she’s a day.”

“I always thought she held a flame for Christie.
Well, my father did, I wouldn’t know.”

“She did, I’ll make no bones about it.
They would have married too, only for Nell.
Christie’s father was a snob. Nell’s was a doctor:
He spat into his hand and made the deal.
Christie would have married Hunter’s dog
for an easy life, so of course put up no fight.
Maggie took it well, went to the wedding
but no man went into her house again.
Just the one ever came out, and in a box.”

“Does she still have a night cap after dinner?”

“She does. Her hot little nip of whiskey
and her pipe. But always just the one now.
She’d more than one the night that Christie went.
You heard I’m sure? No one can hold their piss
round here, let alone a bit of gossip.
Fair play now, at least, they let her alone;
we kept the place open for her, the fire on.
When I came down there was ten Euro by her glass.
I’m sure that didn’t cover it
but I’ve never brought it up. Nor has she.
A fat lot of good that talking ever did.

Declan Ryan

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