Poetry has a vertical audience, Eavan Boland once said. One might say the same about our historic buildings and parks, being used through generations, witnessing historic events, holding a vivid place in people’s minds.
To mark the end of the Easter Rising and Poetry Day Ireland on 30 April (poetic coincidence?), we invite you to read Paula Meehan’s poem, inspired by a report she found at the Irish Architectural Archive.
Them Ducks Died for Ireland
“6 of our waterfowl were killed or shot, 7 of the garden seats broken and about 300 shrubs destroyed.”
Park Superintendent in his report on the damage to St. Stephen’s Green, during the Easter Rising 1916
Time slides slowly down the sash window
puddling in light on oaken boards. The Green
is a great lung, exhaling like breath on the pane
the seasons’ turn, sunset and moonset, the ebb and flow
of stars. And once made mirror to smoke and fire,
a Republic’s destiny in a Countess’ stride,
the bloodprice both summons and antidote to pride.
When we’ve licked the wounds of history, wounds of war,
we’ll salute the stretcher bearer, the nurse in white,
the ones who pick up the pieces, who endure,
who live at the edge, and die there and are known
by this archival footnote read by fading light;
fragile as a breathmark on the windowpane or the gesture
of commemorating heroes in bronze and stone.
‘Them Ducks Died for Ireland’, from Painting Rain, Carcanet Press, Manchester, 2009.