Family Ties

You were fifteen when the Christian

Brothers folded their hands

and fumbling fingers.


Brother Mulholland handed you

a one-way ticket to London,

an address, a parting grope.

You dug nails into calluses, cursed

the sanctimonious tosser for his love

of the rod and young boys.


Your elder brother

had been spared
these monkish habits. 

God knows how,

but he’d got your father

home from the asylum

where he’d been put

after swinging an axe

at the butcher.

They’d used ECT.


He could barely speak when you saw him.

Your mother was shit-scared
of the six-foot-six zombie.

Wouldn’t let him have a fork

for his food, never mind
a knife.


Left him all day, staring, alone

with the cats in the stinking parlour.

Even made him sleep in that pissed-

on chair.


He’d beg to be shaved.

You hated his dribbling face.

Your mother said

he’d been handsome
when they tied the knot,

always polished
his shoes. “It was Wipers

what sent him mad.”


You cleaned up the cat shit

before joining the Merchants.

Your mother wasn’t bothered.


That’s when the nuns

sent your sister home; thirteen,

hair the colour of Jamaican rum.


You’d never spoken to a girl before;

Your mother made you share a bed -

no other place to sleep.

In the morning

you left for sea.



for five years.

But she always knew

you’d come again.

© Ruth Casey 2004