by Seán Hewitt

My motherland sings with white bones.
My fatherland tremors with them.

What do they do in the end
but splinter, fracture, hollow out –

bones broken, still alive,
with hammers; bones left

untouched, bones carved …
What do they do in the end

but stay? Sink in earth or catch
in the wind. Some nights, bones

sing, are hung in trees
or stacked in chimney breasts.

From the thigh-bones of cattle:
a round-tower, a harp. A bone

with a ballad of breaking, of splint
or graft. A bone winnowed once

to instrument, or monument –
used, or put to use. Listen: a mother

in a garden sings with bones.
A father, remembering, tremors.

This is one of ten poems commissioned by UCD Library, Poetry Ireland, and Arts Council Northern Ireland as part of Poetry as Commemoration, a two-year initiative supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 programme.

The aim of Poetry as Commemoration is to encourage creative engagement with the material history of the Irish War of Independence & the Civil War.

This poem was inspired by small sculptures of round towers carved in meat bone by a prisoners during the War of Independence.

It will be published in Grief’s Broken Brow, a limited fine press edition designed and produced by Jamie Murphy at The Salvage Press featuring original artwork by James EarleyGrief’s Broken Brow will be presented as a gift to 100 repositories providing a tangible record of the Decade of Centenaries and a legacy object for future generations. Poems are made available to the public via Poetry Jukeboxes, the Poetry as Commemoration website, and the Irish Poetry Reading Archive.