A Shankill Mantel

Neil Young
Each back-to-back had one as its shrine
and matriarch as guardian who sheened
its photo-gallery as if to neglect 
just one day’s dust would be a betrayal. She was
the keeper of myths the wars leaked out
down every narrowed lane; she was
the one who tuned or hardened hearts
to extremities; the insulator to gluts of grief.
A brother’s, father’s and uncle’s coats
still hung beneath the stairwell. Though they
could never return to shoulder them
normality draped from those old pegs
as surely as if the Good Lord had ordained it so.
All outside might change to reds and blues
of a louder lens, but this world
had the certainty of date-stamped monochrome.
Each day as the kitchen clock struck seven
she’d kneel to scrape the grate
and spruce the uniforms and smiles 
that kept un-ageing kind expression
in the aspic of their last going-away.
Hushed talk and jokes could be overheard from the hall;
mementoes – buttons, badges, stubs 
of dance-hall tickets – she kept in a childhood biscuit tin.
At supper-time, as coals glowed low,
she’d smarten the picture-frames as if
to brush the hairs off dead men’s suits 
and parade-wear epaulettes.
They would be there to greet her
again after breakfast; she would be there
in her apron, with tinder, wax and cloth.
Page 77, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124
Issue 124

Poetry Ireland Review Issue 124:

Edited by Eavan Boland

Poetry Ireland Review 124 contains new poems from Paula Meehan, Ciarán O'Rourke, Lizzy Nichols, Mark Ward, Gabriel Rosenstock, Özgecan Kesici, Doireann Ní Ghríofa, and many other compelling voices. Also included is Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin's remembrance of her Cork childhood, excerpted from The Vibrant House: Irish Writing and Domestic Space, a book of essays reviewed in issue 124 by Caitríona O'Reilly. Other books considered in this issue include collections from Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Mark Granier, Tara Bergin, The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets, and the Collected Poems of the late Dennis O'Driscoll, and there's also a short interview with Thomas Kinsella along with an essay on Kinsella as poet and civil servant. Another Kinsella is this issue’s Featured Poet, Alice Kinsella, and all artwork for the issue is supplied by artists associated with the Olivier Cornet Gallery on Great Denmark Street, around the corner from Poetry Ireland.

Available now to purchase online or in all good bookstores.