14th November 1920 (murder of Fr. Griffin)
She heard the hiss of a rat scurrying past the canal
burrowing its way into the sewers, slink sliding
of last leaves mulching into her body, her chant
in a tongue, silenced, almost forgotten, backdrop
grit of her pebbled bed. She heard the squeal
of pike, crunch of a cart coming over the bridge,
a crash of thunder after lightening split the Yew
on her banks, wind howling and roaring
through streets, a child crying in the distance, spit
and crackle of fire, sparks rising from chimneys.
She heard chimes, Franciscan bells, organ hymns
pealing from St. Nicholas church, a robin chirping
as it perched on a sill in The Poor Clare’s house,
a matriarch of women gathered in prayer.
A racket of crows cawing, lined in a row of stone
walls, uproar, rumpus, men debating in Eyre Square.
She heard the usual hum of her own pulse, ripple
and splash of her current, sky darkening into low light,
moon’s hag shadow resting on the surface of her watery
skin, the harsh chak-chak call, a lone magpie flying west,
a bang from the Gaol door. The gaaw of a grey heron
patiently standing on one leg, a flock of oyster-catchers
piping at the estuary’s mouth, like nuns in their black
and white habits, as if they already knew death’s long
hand would come to the house of God.
She heard the rapid cackling, high rasp of sparrowhawk,
a loud cry from a black-headed gull–
gunshots over the city, a statue shattering.
She heard the curse of omertá, as she flowed
on like a swan-maiden wearing the world’s sadness, leaving
no trace she had ever been there, bending around wood, stone,
her song, a cry from the garden at Gethsemane.
Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at Galway City Museum on 5th and 12th of November, 2022. The workshops were led by writer Gerry Hanberry. This poem featured on the Poetry Jukebox installation in Galway from May-July 2023.