Sunset on the Irish Festival

(Port Arthur 1994)

Spring: the road flaunts wattle gold,
        with pink and white skirts of heather.
        On the white poplars little baby hands
        pick at the light with pale, hooked fingers.
        At Smith O'Brien's cottage daffodils
        throw refrain to the buttercup light.
        It is a time for mown parkland grass
        and bold blooms in the Government Gardens.

Just so, the sun sets on the Irish Festival.
It is not a time to echo rebellion.

A girl sings of 'Hard Times'.
        'My mother told me before she passed away
        Said girl when I'm gone don't you forget to pray
        Cause there'll be hard times...'
The man-caked walls gaze inscrutably down.
        'I soon found out just what she meant
         When I had to pawn my clothes just to pay the rent...'

The men at the Festival are of middle years,
        thin-shanked, long-haired - curiously like the men of old,
        but with a softness.
The walls seem to turn away -
        to fix, with the sun, on Point Peur, on Dead Island.
         And the girl says - seems to say -
        I'm perfectly wise in the careworn ways
        of the world. Y'know?

'Oh man one of these days
There'll be no more sorrow, then when I pass away
Be no more hard times, no more hard times
And who knows better than I...'

Other poems by Pete Hay

Flower Cone
Girl Reading Lorca at the Mirador San Nicolas
The Duck's Guts

Interviews with Pete Hay

Conversations: an interview with Pete Hay and Richard Flanagan (1995)
A conversation with Pete and Anna Hay (2003)
Island to island: an interview with Pete Hay (2011)



BEACH, Eric: Weeping for Lost Babylon
DE PAOR, Louis: Goban Cre is Cloch/Sentences of Earth and Stone

Launch speeches

MATHISON, Robyn: To Be Eaten By Mice
ROBERTS, Bruce: In the Church of Latter Day Consumers
SANT, Andrew: The Islanders


Half-Time with Stout John
Port Arthur: Where Meanings Collide
What I did on my Holidays
Notes within Shadow