‘a song to rest the tired dead’ and other poems by Raine Geoghegan, MA

Romanichals in the 1950’s


covels packed
chavies scrubbed clean
me rackley’s bal washed with panni
the grai grizhomed holled


opre and gel on
dikk the next atchin tan
a fellow chal pookers
kushti bokt

Romani words: Romanichals – English Romanies; Covels – belongings; Chavies – children; rackley’s – girls; Grai – horses; Grizhomed – groomed; Holled – fed.

Opre – arise/forward; Dikk – look for; Atchin tan – stopping place; Chal – Travelling man; Pookers – calls out; Kushti bok – good luck


Somewhere in Apple Water country

Me Mum’s cookin’ sushi stew.
Me Dad’s chinning the koshtie’s.
I’m practisin’ handwritin’ with a fine pencil.
I’m lookin’ forward to sendin’ a proper letter
to me cousin Louie, she’s a didikai and goes
to school in London. Me dad calls it royal town
and say’s ‘e wouldn’t go there, not if yer paid ‘im.
She ‘as to wear a uniform, red and gold, but she
can’t wear ‘er gold ‘oops, it’s against the rules.
If I ever went to school, me dad would ‘ave murder
if anyone touched me ‘oops or me ears.

Apple Water Country – An old Romani word for Herefordshire.
Romani words: sushi – rabbit; Chinning the koshtie’s – making pegs;
Didikai – non Romany.


A Memory of the Hop Fields

She is in the front garden
bending low, picking bluebells,
wearing her old red apron,
with the Spanish dancer on the front.

She stands up, rubbing her lower back,
her mind shaping a memory.
The hop fields,
her mother lean, strong,

picking the hops as quick as a squirrel.
Her bal in plaits, tied on top of her head.
Her gold hoops pulling her ears down.
Ruddy cheeks, dry cracked lips.

Her father pulling poles,
sweating, smiling,
his gold tooth for all to see.

At the end of a long day
she would stand on top of an apple crate,
comb his hair, kiss his neck tasting of salt.

He would pick her up,
Swing her high, low and say,
   ‘You’re the prettiest little chi there ever was.’

Romani words: Bal, hair. Chi, daughter/child.


Koring Chiriclo ii – a triolet

Jel on, me dad would say.
Pack up yer covels, we’ll be on our way.
Take our time, get to Frome’s Hill by May.
Jel on, me dad would say.
The cuckoo’s callin’, untie the grai,
Up onto the vardo. It’s a kushti day.
Jel on, me dad would say.
Pack up yer covels. We’ll be on our way.

Romani words: Koring Chiriclo – the cuckoo; Jel on – move on;
Covels – belongings: Grai – horses; Vardo – wagon; Kushti – lovely.


‘a song to rest the tired dead’

im of Celia Lane
it is dusk
she has come to wash the body
a table is set by the bed
a bowl of lavender water
clean muslin cloths
a white towel
  ‘too young for death’
she thinks as she removes all the clothing
and jewellery from the body of her niece
she notices stretch marks on the thighs
how the breasts have dropped
from feeding the chavies
    ‘forty years ago, just been borned
sucking at her Daya’s breast.’
taking a cloth
she dips it in water
squeezes it hard in her hand
sets about her task
malts stand by the doorway
aunts, daughters, sisters and the daya
singing in low soft voices
a song to rest the dead

she speaks quietly
to her loved one as she gently cleans
lifting one arm up then the other
holding it
placing it down carefully
as if it was made of glass

the others won’t move too close
it is mokkadi to do so

this woman who washes the dead
now holds both feet
letting them rest for a while
blessing them for all the miles
they have trod the earth

she dresses her niece in the finest of clothes
combs her dark tangled hair
places the gold chain and earrings in the palm
of the right hand
puts the wedding ring back on
the third finger of the left hand
    ‘such small fingers’
bending forward, kisses them
   ‘you are ready now my gel, sov well’

Romani words: Chavies – children; Daya – mother; Malts – women; Mokkadi – unclean; Sov – sleep.


O Lillai Gillie

Prey o lillai, prey o lillai
Gillyava a gillie
Prey o chick, prey o charos
Gillyava a gillie

Prey a panni, prey o panni
Gillyava a gillie
Shoon me vas’ tacha
Gillyava a gillie

Prey o raddi, prey o raddi
Gillyava a gillie
Chumos for me pen
Gillyava a gillie

Prey o lillai, prey o lillai
Gillyava a gillie
Prey o chick, prey o charos
Gilyava a gillie.

Gillyava a gillie, gillyava a gillie
Shoon me vas tatcha,
Gillyava a gillie.


The Summer Song

In the summer, in the summer
I will sing a song, a song
Of the earth, of the heavens
I will sing a song

On the river, on the river
I will sing a song
Listen, my beloved
I will sing a song

In the night, in the night
I will sing a song, a song
Kisses for my love
I will sing a song

In the summer, in the summer
I will sing a song, a song
Of the earth, of the heavens
I will sing a song

I will sing a song, a song
Listen my beloved,
I will sing a song.

a song to rest the tired dead’ and other poems are © Raine Geoghegan, MA

Author’s note

Please note that the following poems are published in Apple Water: Povel Panni,
‘Romanichals in the 1950’s’,Somewhere in Apple Water Country’ andA Memory of the Hop Fields’.
‘a song to rest the tired dead’ was published in Here Comes Everyone in the Ritual (online edition, August 2018)
‘A Memory of the Hop Fields’ was published in Words from the Wild  (Summer Edition, 2018) editors, Louise Taylor & Amanda Ostusion
‘Somewhere in Apple Water Country’ was published in Bonnie’s Crew (May 2018) editor Kate Garret.
‘Koring chiriclo (ii)’ was published in Under the Radar (Summer Edition, 2018)

Raine Geoghegan, MA lives in West Sussex. She is half Romany with Welsh and Irish ancestry. Her poems and short prose have been widely published and her debut pamphlet, Apple Water – Povel Panni published by Hedgehog Press was launched in December 2018 and previewed at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2018. Her poetry has been featured in a documentary film about hop picking ‘Stories from the Hop Yards.’ She is a Pushcart Prize and Forward Prize nominee. Other publications include, Under the Radar; Poetry Ireland Review; The Curlew; The Clearing and The Travellers’ times, amongst others