by Cliona O'Connell

after The Burning of Cork, December 1920


They say the sky bled a frosty red that night

and the city lost the usual spliff like whiff 

of riches spilling from O’Callaghan’s tobacconists

and malt on the air from the Beamish Brewery –

lost it to the insistent metallic smell 

of its centre burning  

and when the flames had had their way

with the Munster Arcade 

and the half of Patrick Street 

had crumbled to rubble 

one building with its brains blown out 

had a solitary wall left standing at an angle 

with four openings where the windows once were,

sparrows flying through from nowhere 

to where the boy sticking to his good stand 

for selling newspapers drapes the bundle 

over his arm and, with words transferring 

to his wet hand, shouts Eeeecho, 

into the thin December air,

into the everywhere, where we can still hear him   


Reproduced with kind permission of the author.

This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at the Lexicon Library, Dun Laoighaire in July 2022. The workshops were led by poet Catherine Ann Cullen.