Dead in the Wars and in Revolutions

by Mary Devenport O'Neill

It is cold without flesh, without bones,
To cover the soul.
No blood or nerves to take the shock, but woes
Beat on the unprotected soul.

We are naked shades within our span of life,
A gap in living fabric,
A blot, a flaw,
Cold, cold without flesh, without bones;
Cold without flesh, without bones, to cover the soul.

We can perceive the sun, but not through warmth –
We have no bodies.
Not through colour nor through brightness –
We’ve no eyes.
Not through the increase of life
Which to life it brings.
What the sun pours
On our stript souls
Is the dark inverted essence of all these things.

We know when music plays,
But we are shades;
Sounds cannot caress our ears,
And rhythm tell us only
That we have no limbs –
No muscles clean as silk to swing our joints,
No lovely ivory joints that turn and slide:
We are weightless shades,
We wait upon the wind.
Tonight the music and the wind combine
And dead things dance,
Dead leaves and dust and ghosts.

No time, no night and day –
We crave for bodily cares or even pain
To give our dreadful souls a holiday.
Our souls outcast
From kindly human insincerity
Are whitening in the savage glare of truth.

Published in The Dublin Magazine, 16 (Winter 1941), p.7

Dawe, Gerald. Ed. Earth Voices Whispering: an Anthology of Irish War Poetry 1914-45. Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2009. pp.53-4