The Saturday Poem: Roger Casement in Carrickmines
A new poem by Damian Smyth
Damian Smyth. Photograph: Bobbie Hanvey
If there is a place to mourn travellers, this must be where it is.
Already the sky is lit up with the discipline of autumn,
Branch by branch, hand over fist, as if nothing is the matter;
The ivy and green willow unfettered, sovereign and ablaze,
By the same paths perfect horses danced on to make a solid earth,
Where everything that’s lost is remembered equally and for ever,
Which means nothing is; which means the generations heal over.
It is a fair step from here to the seashore, as you well know,
Although I am on my way there even so with foreign cousins
And inhospitable neighbours – cherished outcasts – to make amends
For the black wounds of the natural world, its prefab Eden,
For the cathedral of a sparrow’s chest, the incendiary tea-lights
Of your plastic bouquets, zinc clatter of your murdered talk.
O valour of your exiled children, O sultry darkness of Congolese vines
Dripping sap into the gourds: I ran away with two old people,
But they were killed, and the soldiers made me carry the baskets
Holding their cut-off hands. The North King Street tenements
Run-through again, bayonets bright under the shell-fire of Mons.
After all, aren’t the Four Courts always on fire? Those squats
And factories – Boland, Jacob, South Dublin Union – suddenly vexed
That had been antique and tired, now once more extraordinary.
And the sea is still where salt water is summoned by the handful
For your dead children; brought to them by the fistful over Irish miles,
Till their silks, blouses, their curls and jumpers, are extinguished
By the island; a whole hundred years too late but sorry on our behalf.
Damian Smyth’s collections include The Lamentations ( 2010 ), Market Street (2010), and Mesopotamia (Templar, 2014). A new book, English Street, is due this year