by Amy Abdullah Barry

For Thomas McGuire, anti-Treaty IRA prisoner

I wish for morning,
away from this clandestine dugout,
dampened by the breath of Lough Key,
even my prisoner’s cell in Athlone
would be better than this.

Rats everywhere,
big brown ones,
their frantic squeals,
crawling along the roof timbers,
to reach our food.

Some fall to the floor,
or land on our beds,
scatting in their wild directions.
Others are fighting, squealing,
just as I once did.

At least I escaped,
the fate of my five comrades,
set to face the fun with me,
unlike my brother, Seán.

When I close my eyes
I will never escape
their pointed heads,
their dark stare.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in a Poetry as Commemoration workshop held in Athlone Library in October 2023.  The workshop was led by writer Gerry Hanberry.