Along the sidewalks and curbstones of the old neighborhood,
Every so often he would be on the loose again,
A figure very old and impossibly bent over forward in his spine,
Decked out in the old-fashioned formality
Of a now shabby three-piece suit
And a facial expression of solemn concentration.
His mind was as bent and broken as his body,
And both were safely sheltered by his family
From the neighborhood world of everyday,
But now and again, he would give this refuge the slip;
He was all dressed up with someplace to go.
We kids would catch sight of him shuffling along,
And chant out to him, “Where are you going, Mr. Toomey?”
And we would hear for certain a familiar, expected reply,
“I’m going back to Ireland.”
And then even as children we knew enough
To interrupt his dreaming, and take him by the sleeve
And lead him back to the worried house of his family;
He would follow along in a genial and befuddled docility.
It was quite a thing to witness, and, all in a wonder,
Something to run home and tell your parents about –
Old Man Toomey wandering around again
At his wit’s end with his unrequited dreams.
It made you think, or rather made you hope,
That somehow and someday his mind could feel for certain
It had imposed its wish upon his body,
And one transplanted Irishman smiled as he returned
To his true home at last.