None so fit to chink the chains as they
who wear them; none so well equipped
to say what is a fetter – so we struck!
My love, my lovely Madeleine, Maeve
Markiewicz, and I, among the rest,
ardent men and women both, the dawning
generations of tomorrow. Not like other people,
Maeve, magnanimous and bright, her every
word, almost, a-flame with inspiration,
soundest sense: our one pragmatic fantasist!
The nation came alive whenever
with her, a weather-tingled music
filling up the air. I remember her,
of course, at Easter, each morning
since our business in the city
shot with light, blue depth, a summer’s
clarity in spring. And Connolly! So gruff
and genial, keenly watching as he reached
across, bequeathing me a brooch, golden,
like a fibula, “from all the members
of the ICA” – citizens the lot, my peers.
That day of hot, high sunshine, bare
and beautiful, there at City Hall we made
our stand, and held our stations. Sean,
tall and purposeful, upright and near-laconic,
paced across the line: we saw him fall,
a bullet to the crown. I tried reviving him,
a limp and sodden weight. I held
his swilling head. He died in minutes,
wan and broken, puddling the curb.
Later, too, Tom Ashe, my finger
slowly pulsing on the vein, his
hollow gaze retreating into black.
My Madeleine sustained me then,
as ever – in Ship Street jail, awaiting
every bulletin, but no: instead, a pallid
prostitute in pieces, whose brother,
so she cried, the British killed
the afternoon before – dragged
into the mess by men in uniform,
just two, and twisted like a rope,
a tough gun pressed against her brow:
a brutal spectacle (I saw it all).
Laughingly, they left. So I slipped
a hypo from my overcoat, to make her easy –
till she slept, a grey rag-heap that quivered
at my feet. I often think of them. I thought
of her today, as I wrapped another baby
from the tenement in sheets: a bony,
epidemic child, unblessed, a rapid
stillness building in her chest. I listened
as it grew, and counted out the beats.
I kissed her tiny, tired eyes
before I laid her down to rest.
Reproduced with kind permission of the author. Ciaran O’Rourke is a widely published poet. His second collection, Phantom Gang (The Irish Pages Press, 2022), was longlisted for the international Dylan Thomas Prize , and his debut, The Buried Breath (The Irish Pages Press, 2018), was highly commended by the Forward Foundation for Poetry. He completed his PhD on the poetry of William Carlos Williams in 2019, and edits the online archive of poetry-themed interviews, Island’s Edge Poetry,