Me Uncle, Jack O’Shea
“Did I ever tell ye the one about the..”
He always would begin
To tell his jokes and tales.
Rick, rack that was me Uncle Jack,
Jack O’Shea to be exact,
He was a granpa to me.
From County Kerry near old Tralee,
He fled from the Brits and the IRA,
To New York in Americay.
A bachelor man til fifty
When he met Bridie Casey
In an elevator in Sachs.
“And wouldja go for a cup of tea?”
She nodded her head in glee,
“Indeed, I would”, said she.
So a small spinster lass from Ballaghadereen,
And a tall bachelor man from Kerry’s green,
Married they did, they did indeed..
So they bought a house in the island of Staten,
With an attic view of old Manhattan,
Where us Casey boys would come and play.
Each day off to the Bronx to work they went
A bus, a ferry, a subway or two, a lady & gent,
Back home again by six or so.
Many’s the merry time we boys’d have
Listening to them tell their tales,
And Jack with all his jokes.
Like a Seannachie of old, with a little pub,
A little parlor, a little stage Irishman,
In the mix together they’d rub.
He could tell stories and jokes for hours
While Bridie would laugh, play cards,
Cook terribly or have us pray.
Twas she taught me how to box,
“Put up your dukes” she’d say
And we’d fun fight and dance about.
Now later on with pipe in hand
He’d say: “Now come here lad,
I’ll teach ye the proper way.”
“Now aren’t I, indeed the man,
Who shook the hand
Of John L. Sullivan,”
“Give em the horns of yer head to hit,
The corners of your noggin,
It’ll make their knuckles split.”
“If they knock ye down ye get back up
And never a tear in your eye
If they knock ye down all day.”
“Cause every time they knock ye down,
Ye always get back up again,
For soon their fists will be bleedin’”
“They can knock ye down, Jaymes,
But always remember, lad
They can never keep ye down.”
“For that’s the Irish in ye,
And they can’t take that away,
And a thousand years they’ve tried.”
“For a strong and hardy race we are
With the old ways deep inside,
For a Nation again we’ll be.”
“John Bull and all his armies,
With the divil on his back,
Will never take that away.”
“For Ireland was a Nation
Proud and civilized,
Before any England was.”
“Ireland was a Nation
As grand as ere there was
When England was but a pup.”
“And Ireland will be a Nation,
For how ever long it takes,
When England’s belly up.”
“Did I ever tell ye the time...”
It seems like yesterday,
When Bridie passed away.
And Jack was a widower man
Alone again in his seventies,
Just like he was as a lad.
But he never stopped with his tales
As his bones’ go crickety-crack,
And the tall frame started to stoop.
“Don’t worry about me Jaymes,
Fer the next time ye’ll see me
I’ll be in the boneyard.”
It was another 16 yrs of hearin that,
On St Patrick’s Day indeed
When we buried him on his back.
Once on a visit: “Don’t worry bout me,
Ye gave me drink ‘n food, a nice warm bed,
Happy I’ll be if ye get me a pot to piss in.”
That was me Uncle Jack O’Shea,
An’ proud as he was of me
I’m proud to have been the child
And the man that shook his hand.
James Patrick Casey 11-46 a.m. Jan 16, 2011 Stone Ridge NY USA