Protestant Courts Catholic

© By James Simmons

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Too tired, and too fastidious for lies,
he said, ‘Let’s make love when you’re free.’
‘Just like that?’ ‘Yes, just like that. No ties.’
She said, ‘You wouldn’t want to marry me.’

Although his devious honesty made him sick,
‘You’ll give yourself to someone. Who?’ he said.
‘The unknown husband. I’m a Catholic,’
she smiled. He said, ‘Don’t smile and shake your head.’

Intrigued, he argued, but she never budged.
She blamed the church. He said she was a sham.
‘You have to judge in order to be judged.’
Her smile was roguish, false. ‘That’s how I am.’

‘Look, I’m the serpent you have read about.
The law says no, I’d like it if you would.
You’re free either to stretch your fingers out
or not. Choose, knowledge or servitude.’

Seducer turned to saviour on a whim,
he lavished hours of rhetoric on her.
Her faith protected her from men like him,
useless at home, dynamic in a bar.

To be the star, attended, made her tremble.
How seriously drunken poets play
but Irish girls are brought up to dissemble,
to blush and listen and to get their way.

‘In these cases we still have judgement here.
It’s you who’ll suffer, so it can’t be right
to leave choice to the priests.’ Swallowing beer,
smoking, he stood and argued half the night.

At closing time he left so solemnly
you might have thought he went to meet his death.
She had hysterics on her wedding day
when she smelt lager on her husband’s breath.

© James Simmons, Protestant Courts Catholic, 1971, complete text, Poems 1956-1986, 1986, The Gallery Press.

James Simmons describes a Protestant man’s efforts to seduce a Catholic woman.

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