Seahorses

Mr O’Connell, “Sir” to you and me
had a strap, a collection of straps
different colours, different lengths and widths
all stung outstretched hands
when Mr O’Connell spoke
everybody listened
and he drank warm, milky coffee, with skin on
and he had seahorses.

Mr O’Connell
stood straighter than straight
he had two pens for marking
red and green; hard and soft
red crosses stung hand
green a chance to correct
g“good!” meant “good!” in any colour.

Mr O’Connell
taught right from wrong
imposed his discipline, with fairness
in an old-fashioned, outdated, discredited way
Mr O’Connell was never wrong
and he drank warm, milky coffee, with skin on
and he had seahorses.

Mr O’Connell
taught what he knew, knew what he taught
held his beliefs firmly
led by example, cared deeply
seldom showed it.

Matty O’Connell was an old man
with steely eyes
age set free a thin, wry smile
and bent his once rod-straight back
and his hands shook as he spoke
and he spoke of the past
and the pupils he taught
when Matt O’Connell spoke
everybody listened
no more straps
and he drank warm, milky coffee, with skin on
but the seahorses
were gone.

Seamus Kelly

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