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Joe’s No Saint – John D. Sheridan

Joe’s no saint,
And I ought to know
For I work at the bench alongside Joe.
He loses his temper just like another
– Days he’d bite the nose off his mother,
And when 1 call for a pint of plain
Joe’s not slow with ‘The same again.’
He gives an odd bob to the poor and needy
But you wouldn’t call him gospel-greed
– You know what I mean?
So if there’s enquiries after he’s dead
I won’t swear to no haloes around his head,
For I never seen none. When all’s said and done
I don’t suppose they give haloes out
To fellows who like their bottle of stout.

All the same, though,
I’m glad that I work alongside Joe.
For in the morning time I lie on
Long after Guinness’s whistle is gone
And scarcely have time for a cup of tea
– As for prayers,
Well between you and me
The prayers I say is no great load –
A Hail Mary, maybe, on Conyngham Road
– You know how it is?
The horn blows on the stroke of eight
And them that’s not in time is late;
You mightn’t get a bus for ages,
But if you clock late they dock your wages.

Joe, though,
He’s never late at all,
Though he lives at the far end of Upper Whitehall:
And I happen to know
(For the wife’s cousin lives in the very same row)
That he sets his alarm for half-past six,
Shaves, and goes through the whole bag of tricks
Just like a Sunday,
Gets seven Mass in Gaeltacht Park
And catches the half-seven bus in the dark.

In ways, too, he’s not as well off as me,
For he can’t go back home for a cup of tea –
Just slips a flask in his overcoat pocket
And swallows it down while he fills in his docket.
I do see him munching his bread and cheese
When I’m getting into my dungarees.

There isn’t a thing about him then
To mark him off from the rest of men
– At least, there’s nothing that I can see.
But there must be something that’s hid from me
For it’s not every eight-o’clock-man can say
That he goes to the altar every day.

Maybe now you know
Why I’m glad I work alongside Joe.
For though I’m a Confraternity man
And struggle along the best I can
I haven’t much time for chapel or praying,
And some of the prayers that Joe does be saying
Those dark mornings must come my way.
For if Joe there prays enough for three
Who has more right to a tilly than me?

When my time comes and they lay me out
I won’t have much praying to boast about:
I don’t do much harm, but I don’t do much good,
And my beads have an easier time than they should,

So when Saint Peter rattles his keys
And says ‘What’s your record, if you please?’
I’ll answer ‘When I was down below
I worked at a bench alongside Joe.’
Joe is no saint with a haloed ring,
But I often think he’s the next best thing,
And the bus that he catches at half-past seven
Is bound for O’Connell Bridge … and Heaven

– You know what I mean?

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