(After ‘The Green Coat’ John Lavery, 1926).
Girl from Chicago,
the city of soot
where smog blotted out the sun
and your father mass-machined
pigs into pulp.
There is a grand mantle behind you,
and one small silver foot pokes out
to steady yourself
for hours of pining
in front of the open fire.
There is no peace.
Four years since Béal na Bláth.
The Irish lilt of him
still on your mind.
Little bird, little love.
At 46, only bones
buried under the floor-length dress.
Your ring finger unseeable.
Such prettiness could never stay pristine
in a life of smoke and shadow.
His pistol in the folds of your frock.
It was all part of it.
Reproduced with kind permission of the author. Written at a Poetry as Commemoration workshop in the Verbal Arts Centre Derry led by writer Maria McManus in November 2022.
Image: ‘Portrait of Lady Lavery as Kathleen ni Houlihan’ by Sir John Lavery: National Gallery of Ireland, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
For more information on ‘The Green Coat’ by Sir John Lavery, please visit The Ulster Museum website: https://www.ulstermuseum.org/stories/works-sir-john-lavery