The Tally

by Colum Clarke

I fondly remember
the plethora of hands
grasping me
etching their names
onto my pale body.
the idiosyncrasies
of their writings
are like
carvings, eloquent
and delicate
each possessing
something new

Suddenly I
am overcome with
the surrounding
all these shallow faces,
drowning in their own
thought, unaware of
the utter melancholy
written on their

These etchings feel
different, a new
sensation, like
gentle strokes
from a paintbrush
all descending along
my eggshell skin.

The room is alive,
electric with hostility.
Some speak, but
I do not listen.
Perhaps I have assisted
in the evocation of
despondency, fear and

Perhaps I have brought
on change, yet I
do not know; is it
for better or for

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in a Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at The Jackie Clarke Collection, Mayo, with students from St. Murdach’s College, Ballina, in October 2023.  The workshop was led by writer Martin Dyer.