Every Old Man I See

My sister Claire is flying back to Ireland tonight. I’ll miss her.

One of the joys of our national airline is the unending supply of smelly old men we get as seatmates. Hers was from Antrim last time, mine was from Co. Clare. They wear old, tobacco-colored suits. “Turty five years in New York,” said my last one, and shook his head. I wished he’d washed. Every stretch to the overhead bins was vinegary. He kept leaning across me to look out the window as we approached Shannon, saying he’d love to go home for good. As Claire says:

“My heart aches for them. But my nose hurts too.”

    Every old man I see
    In October-coloured weather
    Seems to say to me:
    “I was once your father.”