by Attracta Fahy

In a surge of rage our island split,

as if the tree of life had been struck 

by lightning. Each side perceived

the other as betrayer. Doors bolted, 

fighting in trenches and fields.


As the men cramped in ditches, dug 

outs, wives, daughters, apprising 

the latest word, crept with glass bottles 

of lukewarm tea, home-made bread 

lathered in butter, blackberry jam. 


Under the evening star, rats lurched 

between walls, out of sight pine martins 

followed the crumbs, overhead, the cry 

of a raven with its thick black beak, 

alert on the branch of an oak, 


a trickle of rain and menace in the air, 

no one to be trusted. Warnings, before

untrained firing squads charged over hills, 

brother against brother, father against son, 

neighbour against neighbour, roaring, 


not just with determination, but booming 

with a hunger to protect their pride,

gunshots to boost against a gnaw of fear 

lurking in guts, random killings to quell 

the terror of where they’d arrived– 


just out of a tyrannical kingdom,

our country fell into an abyss, chaos. 

An otter scampered through a pool of blood, 

dived back into the river. 

It rained death all that summer, 


and on into winter, fighting, shooting, 

killing  without mercy, with the same aim;

in the name of and love for their country.  

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at Galway City Museum  on 5th and 12th of November, 2022. The workshops were led by writer Gerry Hanberry.