Naming the Dead

Tony O’Dwyer
Here is a listing of the dead, 
Each name chased by the mason’s broach 
In swashed curlicues;
The Greeks believed that stone dissolved the flesh, 
And so we think of them lying in a house of decay,
Strewn with chips of coffin-wood and rust-pocked nails,
Their gnarled fingers crossed, 
Their naked bones curling in the walled-up dark.
But imagine them gathered round the piano 
Of an evening in draped and lamplit rooms:
Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar,
Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?
Or sitting at a door in summer, 
Hay bleaching in all the meadows, 
The evening air filled with lush accretions, 
Gazing along the valley fields 
To where Mount Callan rises 
Like the blue wall of the world.
Beyond it Europe weeps; 
Famine ships are sailing; Whitman rests 
His pen from Leaves of Grass;
Morse is tapping out What hath God wrought
The wagon trains go west.
This is the enigma of the dead:
To live in memory, come back in dreams,
Insist we honour them with stones, 
Call out their names, letter after letter, 
To hammer-ring and chisel-chase;
We leave them limestone, 
Promises to sing for them in chantries.
Siste, viator they say, over and over, Siste, viator.
Page 29, 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.