Watchers from the Bardo

by Geraldine Mitchell

for Eoin Mac Lochlainn

(after seeing his exhibition ‘Cogadh na gCarad / the War between Friends’ at the Custom House Studios+Gallery, Westport)

Not chalk, not dust,
neither asleep nor awake,
watching, listening, waiting

for us to ask them for forgiveness.
Or could it be the other way round:
that they ask us to forgive them

for having tarnished victory with their
blood, stained our hard-won triumph
with fratricidal killing

when freedom was close enough
to touch. Unquiet souls still trapped
in a limbo of our devising, still waiting

to be delivered, watchers waiting
for us to close their eyes, to give them
peace – and a dreamless sleep at last.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in response to artist Eoin Mac Lochalainn’s powerful work about the estimated 1400 or more dead in the Civil War. The exhibition was Cogadh na gCarad/the War between Friends and was first shown at the Oliver Cornet Gallery in Dublin and later in Westport, Co. Mayo.