And North, where this land trenches —
to Somme, to Flanders,
poppies bloom, in a field shamrocks.
The herbs fuddled in smokes
white, from the mouths of guns giving out.
Like the moons with stalks, like pod towers
— their capsules with weepholes — holding memoirs
bitter, sweet as they seem; with red ruffs
cupping their raven heads. Though,
it is the clovers (three heads),
which are laced on the pew ends
at a wedding in Whitefriar church.
Even then, in the midst of trials,
there was love, still, to give.
The kindness, of a people known for it.
Gaeilge, a pipe band played in kilts.
Volunteers pressing harps on the troopers’ hats.
Milk in glass bottles on doorsteps.
A meal cooked at Cullenswood House, its walls fallen.
And a soldier, bohemian now,
cries On Another Man’s Wound,
by the coppertips’ Singing Flames,
a promising Easter Sunday.
For that, Papaver rhoeas was cultured,
for its opium soothes,
for the closure of safe houses,
to the rise of countries safe.
And Ireland, seizes that moment
to stand, a trefoil leaf,
amongst the copse’s greens,
on the brow of a hill.
Drops of oil aiding the strong,
the soft-spoken, grinding up
On Dangerous Ground like cogs,
Letting grate their bones,
to give the island a wreath of her own.
Poppy is sedative, though fragile as peace.
But this field is of shamrocks;
In grey podzolic, peat,
it braves underneath.
Through snows and hurling rains,
it will sprout a dream,
on the brow of a hill.
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 multiple collections held in UCD Archives including the Papers of Máire Comerford, Kevin O’Higgins, and Ernie O’Malley.
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 Earley. Grief’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.