Mary Purcell, my grandmother, was born in April 1916,
week of the Easter Rising.
On the same road as she was being delivered, a two-year-old
child ran from the neighbour’s house,
for what? One last gulp of fresh air before her mother tucked her up?
She did not know what martial law was.
Her mother could not rewind the film of horror,
could not explain to her dying child, on the roadside, why she was shot
for skipping outside the house after dark.
In every waking hour thereafter, could she not hear her child,
asking what she did wrong, with the little words she had learned
in her little life. She did not die. She was shot down;
gutted like fish in market;
erased from being.
Whose job was it to peel her body off the pavement?
Did they have to peel the mother from her fading figure first?
Nobody asks the woman about the child she once had,
who turned into a sacrificial lamb on the doorstep of Easter.
People, religiously breaking their knees, bending to altars,
where despite all utterance, nothing gives.
But the whole land keeps praying for peace. The Earth sighs a breath
that sounds like a whole epoch shifting onto its other side in its sleep.
My grandmother, Mary Purcell, takes her first breaths of air, a new air;
for Ireland was shifting in the days to come, did she know this—
bare and bawling as she was?