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A Poem for Robert Drake

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by John Kelly

We cried with him,
Desperately wanting his forgiveness,
We did him no harm,
But we felt his pain,
We marvelled at his humanity,
His ability to forgive,
His inspirational outlook,
His hunger for moving on,
His lack of self pity,
His desire to rebuild,
His courage to make the journey,
You see, he needed to return,
Back to a mystical and spiritual land,
Where the nightmare began,
Under the shadow of an ancient mountain,
In a proud and noble county,
But where are the marching bands?
Where is the Lord Mayor?
With the big chain of shiny gold,
And the silly red cloak,
Where are the cheering throngs?
Who should be acclaiming their hero,
Why is he alone on the wet pavement?
The odd passerby staring at his wheelchair,
They should be shaking his unsteady hand,
As he darts between rush-hour traffic,
The land of a thousand welcomes,
Now there's a joke,
Oh how proud he moves in that chariot,
A victim of a vicious assault,
An attack on all Irish citizens,
He bravely sits there and smiles,
No complaints nor bitterness,
Determined to restack the bricks of his life,
And with the warmth of his heart,
And the strength of his character,
He will get there,
The road may be long,
But his spirit lights up the way,
Like the cat's eyes on a laneway,
In the still of a pitch black night,
And what of his assailants?
What has become of them?
Have their lives been stuck in limbo?
Are they like lost sheep in an Irish bog?
Their feet glued to the dark brown soil,
Clawing and smothering their every move,
And you wonder who are the victims here?
He may have the physical scars,
And he may never dance again,
But he's not defined by his injuries,
Nor by a moment of sheer madness,
Not like the perpetrators of a heinous crime,
Those dark clouds that descended that night,
Like the living dead crawling from their graves,
For they will carry the guilt forever,
Weighing them down for the rest of eternity,
Consuming every second of their existence,
And they will pass it onto their kids and grandkids,
A black stain that can never be washed away,
No matter how hard they scrub,
Coming back in the dark of a cold winter's night,
To haunt them for the rest of their lives,
And will they ever show remorse?
Give him the peace of mind he craves,
Fill in the blanks of those crucial missing memories,
Answer the only question he would ask of them,
If they ever met again,
"Why didn't you just leave?"