“Just as the blackbird strikes up his clear note” by C. Murray

dead hearts, dead dreams, dead days of ecstasy,
Can you not live again ?

 
Nay, for me never dead.
 
(Constance Markievicz, Easter Week 1917)
At each day’s dawn,
they came to tell me,
they came to tell me
that they would be shot.
 
I heard the cracking and
I knew my birds had flown.
Willie Pearse, a carver in stone,
shot, his body melted into lime quickly.
 
I do not know if it was the birds,
that chaos of gulls and crows that
told me they killed James, but then
the screeching stopped.
 
And that silence, that silence
before the cracking violence
and they came to tell me,
that they were to be shot.
 
As a child I knew how,
Beyond the lamp’s circuit,
Lay the shadow of the
Shadow of this darkness,

 
They did not come to see me off.
I stood, and I waited for the order
to be carried out.
They came to whisper their deaths,
 
no one came for me. I waited,
listening for their songs,
some symbol of their escape
but none came.
 
I saw Paddy leave through a side gate,
his face clear blown away.
His poor head bowed and I knew
that he too was gone,
 
Just as the blackbird strikes up his clear note
 
I saw them injured, tied into chairs.
The soldiers’ guns cocked,
no person need tell me, for the birds told me.
 
Waiting with an arctic kiss
In the well of the staircase,
Ready to drape the bed with visions
No eyelids can vanquish.

 
The guards whisper their morning blasphemies.
They came to tell me in their proud uniforms
with their hearts all bloodied, a bloody page.
They melted into the sun, melted through the bars.
 
Days and days of ravening silences,
and their coming with their songs and laments.
They came to tell me they were dead
and I was not, and I was.
 
I waited for it to stop.
I waited for them to come to me
with a bit of paper,the order,
the priest, maybe.
No-one came.
 
And I saw looking up at my
patch of sky and wondered
why I was not killed,
why I was not let die ?
 
They came to sing to me with their warm feathers,
their sheaves of nesting,
 
Now I am a tower of darkness,
whose windows, opening inward,
stare down upon tidal thoughts.
And in this responsive bell,

 
They came to sing to me,
soft bosomed, purring and burring.
Their young cracking out of eggs
stunned and begging for sun.
 
They came to tell me,
but before I could make out their words,
I saw  them evaporate through the metal grilles,
the shrieking of the carrion crows rises up and above the Liffey
 
carrying with it their red blood to tell to the river.
I would know without a word the shrieking of their carrion fear,
 
I did not have to see their iron riddled,
metal punctured hearts to know that their
own sweet ghosts had found the gate.
I sat, I knelt for days of violence and woe,
 
Hollowed by the silence of the eyes,
The mind swings its clapper.
And life resolves into relationships
Of cadence and dissonance.

 
And round, with each pace I make,
I feel the terror of their eyes upon me
and my heart speaks that I live, yet I live.
 
I grieve that they were carried off under warm
sun-warmed wings. Red robed, those flitting birds
out of metal and blood emerged.
 
They came to sing,
they came to mock,
and to lament.
 
They came to tell em that they are dead,
and they came to tell me that they are dead.
 
They came to tell me as they left this realm,
comrades, brothers, I know that you have left
and not one of you tucked me beneath
your endless sunlit wing.
 
I know the meaning of fear, it is solitude.
 
As a child I knew how, beyond the lamp’s circuit, lay the shadow
of the shadow of this darkness,
My tower of darkness, my griefs whirl round it
as the sea gyrates round the grey rocks, the green.
 
Miles away the sea calls me lashing its tumults,
carrying those soaring birds in its streams and eddies,
they call those that are found again,
that none may flounder at the eyries.
 

And oh !

dead hearts, dead dreams, dead days of ecstasy,
 
Can you not live again ?

 

Nay, for me never dead.

Now I am a tower of Darkness

by Freda Laughton

As a child I knew how,
Beyond the lamp’s circuit,
Lay the shadow of the shadow
Of this darkness,

Waiting with an arctic kiss
In the well of the staircase,
Ready to drape the bed with visions
No eyelids can vanquish.

Now I am a tower of darkness,
whose windows, opening inward,
stare down upon tidal thoughts.
And in this responsive bell,

Hollowed by the silence of the eyes,
The mind swings its clapper.
And life resolves into relationships
Of cadence and dissonance.

From A Transitory House; a suite of poems performed at Ó Bheal based on Freda Laughton’s Now I am a Tower of Darkness (2016) & first published in 1916 – 2016: An Anthology of Reactions, Editors, John Liddy & Dominic Taylor (Limerick Writers Centre, 2016)