at Cahir Saidhbhín*

It began with a foot,
thrown up out of the underworld,
as ceremonious
as a stone,
one morning on the shore
of Fort Saidhbhín, 1984.

This was a warning foot,
a foot of other parts to come;

a foot before fifteen-year-old Ann
died in the grotto giving birth;
a foot before Joanne
circled on a map
for the court
each bog lane
in which an act had occurred;
a foot before the broadcast on RTÉ
of statues weeping blood.

This was the fortune foot of Saidhbhín,
who set a hoof
into the centre of a soldier’s fort
to win her human body back.
One touch of the earth
and the hide fell
from her bones.

This foot marked the sand
where soon the air was about to become
animal again.

And as the air hissing salt
rose on its hinds
against the bay,
the Kerry Foot without a name
was placed into an unmarked grave.
Already the body had been claimed
and grieved enough.


* ‘Cahir Saidhbhín’ translates from Irish as ‘Fort of Little Sadhbh’. In Irish legend, Saidhbhín was the mother of Oisín. She appears in stories both in human and deer form.

In 1984, ‘The Kerry Babies’ story unfolded in Cahir Saidhbhín, County Kerry.

A few months before ‘The Kerry Babies’ story broke, it was reported that a single human foot was found washed up on a shore at Cahir Saidhbhín.