This poem was commissioned by the Irish Writers Centre as part of the 1916 centenary celebrations. Tomorrow’s poem is A Demonstration, by Jessica Traynor; it celebrates Dr Kathleen Lynn.
It's good to see a number of St Enda's boys
willing to volunteer,
displaying something like defiance
when we've too often been content to deploy
ourselves in Turkey, to philander
as sappers and sepoys
on the battlefields of France.
His ankle shattered, Connolly
has commandeered two girls from Cumann na mBan to dance
attendance on him. No less ungainly,
I look askance
at a young man whose mouth is smeared
with fresh strawberries.
His lifeblood itself sapped
while British soldiers jeered.
Another's arm is as obstreperous,
having just veered
off the stretcher to which he's strapped
as if to mock the verities.
One by one they've heard their names
called and snapped
to attention, Ferdia after Ferdia
before Cuchulainn at a ford. The frame
of a butcher's bicycle
is listing so
badly one of its legs is surely as game
as Connolly's. It's all but Paschal,
this orange-black flame
that hastens still through the GPO.
Even if the British artillery
have been inclined to greet
my earlier manifestos
with a salvo of their own, The O'Rahilly
is determined to show
that if we don't share the sweet
taste of victory,
at least for now we may find joy
in our retreat
to the Williams and Woods jam factory
in Parnell Street.
- Paul Muldoon is one of Ireland's leading poets. He has taught at Princeton University since 1987, occupies the Howard GB Clark '21 chair in the Humanities and has won a Pulitzer Prize