The Last Letter of James Fisher

by Pippa Little

The Last Letter of James Fisher 1922

From down the speckled gun-sight of a hundred years
hard to picture him shivering in sour November cold,
hair parted at one side and ears still too large for his head:
it has to be summoned in the mind –
from any farthest distance the bloodied fortress of Kilmainham
towards a close-up of one cell,
table set with single sheet of cheap, lined paper, nib and ink,
the almost unseen intake of breath as he begins:

I am now awaiting the supreme penalty at 7oc in the morning

some sense-memory of school calls for formality
yet cannot hold: each childlike letter hurts:

I asked to see you but
Oh Mother if I could only see you just again

one bullet and its casing
a sheet of rain
falling across the high stone halls
of Stonebreakers Yard

this is what remains
of the human capacity for love

Mother Mother

The letter written by James Fisher to his mother the night before his death was exhibited in Kilmainham Gaol in 2022 to mark the centenary of his death aged 18. Under the Emergency Powers Act together with three others he was sentenced to death and executed on November 17th 1922 in Kilmainham for having in his possession a revolver ‘without proper authority’.

Pippa Little ‘s third full collection Time Begins to Hurt came out from Arc Publications in 2022.