Listening In

by Breda Joyce

It’s easy for you, James O’Sullivan –
you only have to listen and decode
while here in this abode I run the risk
of being found out.

And I am fond of my Mistress.
If she but knew that her intimacies are revealed
by what lies concealed beneath the sheets
I fold and pleat. If she but knew that hidden
in her linen cupboard, a bright red telephone
taps out the secrets of this house,
that I, her housekeeper, is a traitor after all,
the one who helps to intercept their lives,
the one who will precipitate their fall.

Intelligence duties you call it
as you cypher their exchanges,
the dots and dashes you collate
to translate with each clack and click
of your typewriter, ready to dispatch
your men while eagerly you poise your pen.

Do I risk my life for love of country or love of you?
No one will ever know my name,
much less the nature of my duplicitous game,
or so you claim. You say it will not be long
before I’m relieved from my post.

But how can I sleep easy in my attic bedroom
when outside you plan their doom?

May God forgive my sin, enabling you to listen in.

Signed: A member of Cumann na mBan

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at Bantry Literary Festival in July 2023. The workshops were led by writer Thomas McCarthy.