Children Carry Wreaths at Michael Collins' Funeral

by Niamh O'Shea

Is it wrong that I feel no harrowing loss
From the death of a man that I never knew?
Ma said he knew Da, so it’s “only right”,
But all I see in his face is the violence that grew.
The hate, and the death, and the thundering war,
War whose fiery tongue singed the nose of our town.
I can still see the smoke, how it tickled our throats,
And the spluttering coughs in which we had drowned.
The funeral bells toll terror and tears,
Yet us children are forced to stand here alone.
They gawk and they glare at the gifts that we bring
This wreath is too heavy
And I want to go home.

I hate how they stare, how they cry but are proud
Of the young men they say we are soon to become.
I’m dying to leave, but the dying’s been done.
I must wait ’till poor Michael’s entombed with his gun.
They’ll tell us that we’re all “great young lads”,
They’ll call us the “bright future of Ireland”,
But no, I don’t want to end up
Like Collins, as he lays there alone with the worms and the sand.
I wonder will children bring flowers for me
When my fingers and toes are no longer feeling.
But for now my ears ring with the funeral bells,
And this wreath is too heavy,
And I want to go home.

Written by Niamh O’Shea as part of Poetry as Commemoration workshops led by David McLoghlin in Ardscoil na Mara, Tramore in February 2023.