Blackbird in Dun Laoghaire – a poem by Joseph O’Connor

Sinéad O’Connor funeral: Poem read by singer’s brother Joseph at private family ceremony

There’s a blackbird in Dun Laoghaire
When I’m walking with my sons
Through the laneways
Called ‘The Metals’
By the train-tracks.

And he sings among the dandelions
And bottle-tops and stones,
Serenading purple ivy,
Weary tree-trunks.

And I have it in my head
That I can recognise his song,
Pick him out,
I mean distinct
From all his flock-mates.

Impossible, I know.
Heard one blackbird, heard them all.
But there are times
He whistles up a recollection.

There’s a blackbird in Dun Laoghaire –
And I’m suddenly a kid,
Asking where from here to Sandycove
My youngest sister hid.
I’m fourteen this Easter.
My job to mind her.
Good Friday on the pier –
And I suddenly can’t find her.

The sky like a bruise
By the lighthouse wall.
We were playing hide-and-seek.
Is she lost? Did she fall?
There’s a blackbird in Dun Laoghaire
And the terror’s like a wave
Breaking hard on a hull,
And the peoples’ faces grave

As Yeats on a banknote.
Stern as the mansions
Of Killiney in the distance,
As the pier’s granite stanchions,
And Howth is a drowned child
Slumped in Dublin Bay,
And my heart is a drum
And the breakers gull-grey.

The baths. It starts raining.
The People’s Park.
And my tears and the terns,
And the dogs’ bitter bark.
There’s a blackbird in Dun Laoghaire,
And I pray to him, then,
For God isn’t here,
In a sobbed Amen.

And she waves from the bandstand,
Her hair in damp strings,
And the blackbird arises
With a clatter of wings
From the shrubs by the teahouse,
Where old ladies dream
Of sailors and Kingstown
And Teddy’s ice-cream.

And we don’t say a word
But cling in the mizzle,
And the whistle of the bird
Getting lost in the drizzle.
Mercy weaves her nest
In the wildflowers and the leaves,
There are stranger things in heaven
Than a blackbird believes.

– Joseph O’Connor, 2010