circumspect at dawn
boy searches for possible
stir of authority in bushes

steals along the path
above an unknowing hop
wrench scream tug thrash

rushes down the bank
pins shoulders with his bovver
forfends constriction and bulge

brushes the cotton belly once
grips the slim wire where it meets
the stake and pulls
his hold red with cut

the crafted loop slacks
fingers clear the bite
he guides the necklace off
lifts the boot

rabbit flips upright
shakes to bearings
scoots under briar
in a flash of grateful scut

boy follows natural way
uproots two snares more
settings for presbytery stew

winks to shriven stillness
of moss and bluebells
hunkers patient in thicket
pricks his ears up for tattoo
of stained blackthorn on bark
objections of ceding brambles
the bellowed ‘damn and blast!’


* The parish priest was very fond of rabbit stew
and regularly set snares (without permission)
in my grandmother’s wood.
Hugh, a local lad, went to the wood as often as he could
to free rabbits he found struggling and pull up
any snares he came across. This infuriated the pp who
never discovered who the spoiler was.
For his defiance and daring – in those days priests
were royalty – Hugh earned among us boys the nickname ‘the protestant’

71 thoughts on “protestant*

  1. The language and the imagery of the poem are very well put together. I just couldn’t make out what it was about until I read the explanation. I enjoyed reading it the 2nd and 3rd time just. Great work.

  2. Snaring is particularly cruel but when you’re in a position
    of virtually unchallenged authority and have a hunger
    compassion doesn’t come into it. Hugh is a hero in my eyes
    and brave beyond words.
    Winnie would like to add that anyone aspiring to write well
    could do worse than study the middle stanzas of this poem
    ending in the brilliant line: “in a flash of grateful scut”

    You have special gifts, John.

  3. Great story, John. All the better for it being from your personal experience, so to speak. Thanks for sharing.

  4. And a fitting nickname for Hugh it was – poor li’l wabbits 😀 even if I do love a rabbit stew from time to time. Loved the sharpness in your poem’s verses, John

  5. John, I like the concision of this one and the way it cloaks identity. Taught and teaching. It made me laugh, then think again. Charlie

    Date: Thu, 16 Apr 2015 02:00:14 +0000 To:

  6. Interesting story brother, and uniquely articulated in the poem! I’ve never had Rabbit Stew. I’d love to see Ireland someday, though I don’t have a preference for tasting Rabbit Stew or not!

    My best to you John!


  7. What a great story Uncle John, as Hugh helped the rabbits taste freedom again and again. Love your way of telling the tale as we fall in love with Hugh’s persistent love for nature – I could feel his quick breathing as he went quickly through to each trap. Wonderful ~

  8. You did a great job with this story. I could so easily see that boy and his adventures in the woods with your words and he was doing something I would do myself. I hate to see animals caught in traps (snares).

  9. John, Hugh is definitely my hero, brave fellow! It’s very enjoyable to learn about your youth, shared through your wonderful poetry. I love the last stanza, and especially the final verse.

    Hugs and well wishes,

    • Yes, Pepperanne, a hero and was in our young eyes, too.
      i don’t know if you heard or read about the hold priests had on Irish
      rural communities in those days and to do what Hugh did was major
      risk and incredibly brave..
      Thank You, Friend, for everything.

      Big Hugs


  10. absolutely brilliant! there was a pace of intensity throughout that really gave life to your superb word choice. excellent writing!

  11. So beautifully crafted John! I love the poem…love the story! Hooray for Hugh 🙂 I think it is awesome that so many knew it was Hugh, yet the pp was left in the dark! Many well wishes to you…may your week be filled with love and light! ❤

    • Thank You, Lorrie
      for your excellent support and happy you enjoyed the poem
      and the story..only we boys knew about Hugh, we kept it
      from the adults as one of them was sure to blab to the pp
      and give the game away..we were good at keeping secrets then;
      nowadays we’d be plastering the info on youtube and going viral..
      what a horrible word that!

      Sorry for rabbiting on.

      i hope all is well with You and Yours.

      Big Hugs


      • 😉 “Rabbit” on any time, John!! Yes…that is what I am most amazed by…that you boys could keep it a secret!! I love it…a secret society of Bunny Saviors () () …(bunny ears) All is well, John. Thanks for asking ❤

  12. This is a truly delightful anecdote described in the breath taking roller coaster that is John. Very exciting, of course I was rooting for Hugh…and the rabbit!

  13. I love this John. So original. You have a rare talent of capturing a moment in time and evoke vivid memories in a short work.

  14. This must be one of your favored childhood recollections John. Filled with acts of nobility and compassion for the wee defenseless creatures of the wild and being stewards of nature. Acts that explore the depth of human kindness. The writing gives it grace and a unique character that only your magic pen and perspectives can supply. Thank you for this sharing. Ever your friend, Jon Michael.

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