Billy Cunningham

by Gabriel Fitzmaurice

He told me that my singing was the equal
Of a goat pissing into a tin can.
Dismissed in youth! The story has a sequel –
He gave me songs when I grew a man,
The old songs that he learned from local rhymers
Who sang their place in triumph and defeat;
I’d spend evenings by his range with that old timer
And all who cared to drop in from the street.
Sitting there in Uncle Billy’s kitchen
Where neighbours walked once more beyond the grave
And youngsters smoked first fags and spoke of mitching
As Billy took out his teeth to sing a stave,
The past would come alive upon his breath.
In circles such as these there is no death.