Notes Irish poetry


Spectres walking among us still
shriek banshee warnings but nobody listens;
skin and bone from the Hunger, blood from the Boyne,
torn limbs from Warrenpoint, Greysteel and Enniskillen,

all cast invisible shadows on the landscape,
stain drumlin, lake and mountain, so at every turn
horror howls at us; a parallel universe stalks us
with ghastly memories of what we have done to each other.

The past is not behind but here now and before us,
history is bunk and can teach us nothing; our
arrogance swamps the seedbed of realisation.
We talk emptily of a future for our children

and gnaw like dogs on the bones the Planters tossed us,
suck nourishment from dead scraps like Auschwitz skeletons;
but that dread nightmare was not of their own making.
Media maggots fatten on our corpses, and

hope is like a crow's feather on the grass
where we tear dark furrows from pitiful small fields.
And we conjure lies about warmth and hospitality,
make wings and missiles, whiskey and Irish linen;

as once we built a ship that surged through the dark,
sought out an iceberg, rammed it and was lost.


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Notes on the poem:

'the Planters' (line 13) - the (Protestant) colonists from England and Scotland who 'planted' Ulster in the 1600s i.e. stole it from the (Catholic) Irish inhabitants; at the same time, other colonists were doing the same kind of thing in North America

Follow the
Auschwitz link (line 14): try not to weep; it may be hard

'a ship' (line 21) - the'Titanic', built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast

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