A Poem For Jim

One year ago today I lamented to myself
that I should have got to know you better,
and always pictured you with the 1990s ‘tash
long after you changed your style to sport a smart goatee,
regretted that I never had the courage to ask
if we could sometime play guitar together,
only got to see you play live once
when ye filled Na Piarsaigh’s clubhouse
with music and song that freely flowed,
nary a hint of any stumble or pause.

The longest chat we ever had
was in the peace of Milford’s smoking room,
after you’d given me a sneak preview
of what proved to be your farewell poem,
at that stage the damage was already done,
no sense in giving up the simple pleasure
of a smoke when the show was nearly over,
and we were just two men shooting the breeze,
finally beyond the timid nephew/uncle routine,
comfortable sharing wisdom and jokes and stories.

And I was just one lad, just one more visitor
in a line that seemed to have no end.
I heard that half the country took the time
to wish you well, lucky to have the chance to say goodbye,
not knowing that Bottler himself would soon go the same way,
a matter of weeks after tickets sold out
and the hallowed shadows of Thomond Park
milled with friends as close as family, voices joined in chorus
to show their grĂ¡ for a friend, a husband, a father and uncle,
the loveable rogue and rebel balladeer.

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