for Seamus Hosey

When the morning presenter enters the studio,
the door slaps shut behind her with an emphatic thud,
leaving her alone with a flood of requests in that sealed
and leak-proof capsule, an astronaut awaiting countdown.
And the lights are on red alert when the producercounting
the seconds behind glass-signals that
the moment of truth has arrived when the presenter’s
voice goes live to the waking nation, takes to the air,
bouncing off satellite dishes like giant corn flake bowls,
getting carried away above farms, office blocks,
building-site cranes, tightly-fitting terraces, reaching
without strain the tips of transmitter masts that seem
from a distance like fir trees in which a dawn chorus sings.

Bungalows where house lights come on stream,
as curtains fall on dreams, grow fully attuned.
And workers with radio-alarms are roused
by her call to take up their arms and rise.
More will be heard of voices as the day advances
through phone-ins, interviews, newsreaders, novels,
lieder, plays; and the dead are full of life and can
speak for themselves from the mausoleum
of the sound archives, because radio was there
when the President was shot and when Grand Nationals
went our way and when the woman-greying hair,
sallow complexion, slight build-was reported missing
and when the native-language island was abandoned.

And voices spoke to my grandmother through
a Bush radio, her new transistor linking her to
the world in a house with no electric connection;
and my father, having taken the tension-gripped pipe
from his mouth on election night, held it before him
like a red-hot microphone. And it was a radio on
the kitchen table’s oilcloth that enabled my uncles
to huddle around a football commentary, jammed with static,
like dissidents listening to a Radio Free Europe bulletin.
And a valve radio was where we waited each Christmas Eve
to hear our names called, loud and clear and deep,
by Santa on his programme-in vain because we’d failed
to mail our crayoned details to him at Radio Eireann’s North Pole.


– Commissioned in 200 1 by RTE Radio to mark the 75th anniversary of Irish radio.