MUSINGS In lieu of lost time


Hands together

In lieu of lost time

Sometimes the wrong queue is just the ticket

The Circling Fin
Fin Keegan

Bad enough to be stuck in a queue at the hospital but then to discover, as I did one Monday, that I had been standing in the wrong queue for ten minutes and that I was now late for an x-ray. It’s the kind of double hit that can really get your week off to a bad start.
Ordinarily, unless you have the foresight to always keep a good book about you, standing in a queue is the epitome of lost time. Luckily for me, the hospital hung framed poems where other institutions might prefer to post notices telling you how to live your life or exactly which enjoyable habits you should be kicking.
So, though idling in the wrong place, my time turned out to be well spent reading a poem which included the arresting lines:

The colour of the world changes three times
When a child is born, when a parent dies
When a hand reaches down and out of all
The doomed sons and daughters, picks yours up

And this poem, ‘Blue’, by Connemara poet Mary O’Malley, picked me up – and made me think for some time afterwards.
The colour of my world has changed twice now. Once was when I became a parent myself. I am fortunate that my own parents are in good health. But what about that other change?

When a hand reaches down and out of all
The doomed sons and daughters, picks yours up

Is that perhaps the debut connection of adulthood, the first touch of a lover? Or is she describing the statistically astounding fact of one’s very existence? After all we are the product of the union of two miniscule paternal and maternal cells. What about the the billions or even trillions of other unions that were possible at the moment of conception? What if Daddy had gone to the wrong queue that Monday and then been late getting out from his x-ray and not bumped into Mammy at the bus stop?
We don’t like to think too much on what the world would have been like without us ever gracing the stage, but the truth is: not much different. Missions to Mars would be dispatched on the same schedule, as would electricity bills and messages from the Dalai Lama. In every notable respect, the world would be identical to the way it is now.
In every notable respect bar one, that is: The Future. Without some one of your many millions of thoughts and deeds, history might turn out to be very different. A compassionate word for a downcast teenager might lead him to feel better about himself, not a lot, but just enough to keep on working for another day towards a secret ambition which, when realised, opens up new worlds. You might give birth to a future invention – or inventor. Or you might write a poem which goes on a bare wall in a quiet corridor and makes people think and think and think.

Fin Keegan is a writer based in Westport. This column is based on his weekly radio essay, heard on WRFM radio, and online at