The Stonebreakers Yard

by Sean Hallinan

Time is taut and tension filled.
Hours, minutes and seconds stretch on…
Distant voices, the jangling of keys, clanging of doors,
a sporadic scream. A chaplain visits.
Whispered prayers, confession, the composition of last letters —
Legacies of love left for sweethearts and mothers.
Doubts and matters of conscience unstated.

Memories abound – rallies with ardent volunteers – the Asgard, Howth and
Pearse’s prolific words by Rossa’s graveside: “The fools…the fools…the fools
Oh! – Clandestine meetings, defiant drills, rebellious manoeuvres and alas,
MacNeill’s Easter Sunday countermand. The “Proclamation” posted.
Five days of hell and heroism, then the inevitable surrender. Hurtful the torrent
of hate-filled jibes endured while running the gauntlet of hostile shawlies.

On City streets military men muster a show of strength.
Armed soldiers on every corner guns at the ready. Gung-ho!
Merchant’s scheme and men of business hasten by. Concerned citizens ask in
hushed whispers, “How many executions” Pearse was first? Who is next?
“Connolly is critically wounded, pray God they will show mercy”!

“Joseph Mary is going to wed?” “O Grace! What little to spend together –
amid these nine dawns of death and murder?”
Sunlight and shadows swap, blood seeps slowly on cobblestones. The hands of the firing party tremble, only the hard hearted relish the task made more
distressing by McBride’s defiance. No blindfold!

In Whitehall Asquith acquiesced with General Maxwell’s will,
“The suppression of an uprising in Ireland is now most essential to quell”.
Press and newssheets rush to print! When will this blood lust end?
Martyrs now! Their veneration spread like a gorse fire! “These were patriot men
of vision imbued by the creed of Tone”. “They died for the noblest cause”.
“Liberty, Justice, Equality”

Morning and from the sun soaked strawberry beds – a solitary skylark soars –
Its clear song of triumph all turmoil and colonial conquest will transcend.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at the National Museum of Ireland — Country Life on the 8th & 9th of November 2022. The workshops were led by writer Terry McDonagh.