Bridge of Tolka, Drumcondra Park, spelter baluster, pewter spate. Spectre of Swan’s liturgy, philtre of Stac’s refrain, and peroxide Ida, acid exchange student, your college green a prairie to our Botanics. You sexed me with a buttercup, highly, and yogi-sat akimbo. Oh Ida, we shoulda. I’da!
Where are you now, Obama bounden, marked for McCain, bankrupt in Ohio, divorced in Union City? Do men put their words into your mouth in Idaho? Are you a mother of succour or did you die purple-hearted by the tracks in Maine?
I’ll seek you high and low in Isle au Haut, I’ll trade Manhattan for rosary beads and pray for an apparition, I’ll drop into every dive from Atlantic City to shining Zee, and go over Niagara in a glass-bottomed boat, looking for my Tolka naiad.
But should all peroxide Idas look the same, I’ll find out what Martinis are and drink them dry, I’ll down firewater without reservation in the Indian nations, I’ll find a night door and wait for you there as longing, unquiet as the Tolka flows.
I washed my face in the mud of faith that turned into a holy spring ever effervescing from pebbles made of light made of light
and I saw the Maid of Light who was made of light, heard a voice tell secrets from the secret well
and her secrets fell into me, into the secret well within, into the water made of light and one of her secrets this:
there are no secrets in me and the well is all there is, the silvery water made of light made of light.
Photo: Sunburst over St. Bernadette’s grotto, Lourdes. Foreground: the river Gave du Pau with a footbridge in the distance. Background: the Basilica. Visitors and crowds can just about be discerned, silhouetted.
– Magical Bread – Mortification of the Flesh – Custody of the Eyes – Sackcloth and Ashes – Apparitions and Miracles – Was Lazarus a Zombie? – On Your Knees – Banned Books – Conclaves & White Smoke – Statues, Icons and Candles
– Catechisms and Rosary Beads – Incense, Chrism and Holy Water – Fasting and Altar Wine – Organs, Hymns and Bells – Papal Bulls and Celibacy – Carpenters and Virgins – Mother and Baby Stables – Wise Men and Donkeys – Gold, Frankenstein and Mirth
– Hermits, Stylites and Prophets – Processions, Relics and Exposition – Retreats, Novenas and Sodalities – Silverware and Stained Glass – Illuminated Manuscripts and Leaflets – Missionaries and Black Babies – Monks, Brothers, Priests and Nuns – Bamboo Canes and Leathers
– Surplices, Soutanes and Cassocks – Chasubles, Cinctures and Stoles – Dog Collars, Hair Shirts and Habits – Censers and Sanctuary Lights – Missals and Mass Cards – Parish Registers and Weekly Dues – Poor Boxes and Collection Plates – Presbytery, Sacristy and Choir – Headstones
– Dominus Vobiscum et Cum Spiritu Tuo – Scrolls, Gospels & Apocrypha – Recordings Detectible in Rocks – Who’s Coming and When? – Revelations, Ergot & Mushrooms – Handwritten Diary of Jesus – Faith, Hope & Love – Salvation and Damnation – Ghost or Spirit?
– Married Priests and Mini-Skirted Nuns – Jesuits, Liberation Theology and Blind Faith – Bishops, Arch and Suffragan – Beatification, Canonisation and Devils’ Advocates – Cathars and the Consolamentum – Kill Them All and God Will Know His Own – Misogyny and “Witches” Burned Alive
– Original Sin, Baptism and Limbo – Joseph and the Immaculate Conception – Fit Kilkenny and the Remoulds – Gethsemene, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb – Veronica and the Turin Shroud – Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje and Knock – Daniel O’Donnell, Margo and Big Tom – The Singing Nun and the Singing Priest
– Domenica-nica-nica and Kumbaya – Faithful Brethren and Dearly Departed – Spare Not the Rod and Despoil the Child – Dormitories, Refectories and Confessionals – Pulpits, Pews and Stations of the Cross – Fonts, Aisles, Chapels and Tabernacles – Altar Boys, Handbells and Patens – Mortal Sins
– Holy Days of Obligation & Acts of Contrition – Blood Washing Snow White & the Seven Deadly Sins – Who Killed Liberty Bodice, Scapulars & Miraculous Medals? – Kyrie Eleison and Why Did Latin Get the Works? – Sojourn in Hell, Transfiguration and Ascension – Aramaic, Abba & Here We Go Again
– Fish Supper and Chip Butties for Five Thousand – Save the Best Wine for Last and Friends on the Coast – Hairy Magdalene and the Tax Collectors – Pilate, Caiphas and Peter the Fink – Romani Ite Domum and the Life of Brian – Lilies of the Field, Sheep and the Fatted Calf – Gadarene Swine
– Get Behind Me Satan and St Patrick Before Me – Holy Threesome and the Divine Mysteries – Mother Mary Aikenhead and the White Fathers – Jesus Wept and the Litany of Loreto – Domine Non Sum Dignus and Also With You – Saecula Saeculorum and Amen
Image: Miraculous Lactation of St Bernard by Alonso Cano c1650. (Prado, Madrid)
If anybody has broadband and wants to hear the whole event:
Recording of complete event (with Daljit’s readings edited down to two out of six, alas) (40 mb mp3, could take a while to download – only practical on broadband). Apart from the poems listed here, Daljit also read “The Speaking of Bagwinder Singh Sagoo”, “To the Wealth of India” and “Parade’s End”.
The complete program:
Welcome and intros (yours duly)
Jeff Achampong reading from a novel-in-progress, working title “Haemoglobin S”.
Lynsey Rose reads two poems and an excerpt from newly completed novel.
Claudette Gordon reads four new poems.
Elle Ludkin reads love poems and a journal about a loved one’s battle with cancer.
Stephen Moran reads five poems: “To the People of New Earth”, “Willesden Sunset, January”, “Lines Between Day and Night”, “The Dolls’ Hospital” and “Inisheer”.
Dale Arndell reads a short story.
(At last!) Daljit Nagra, reading from “Look We Have Coming to Dover!”
I’ve always remembered the brilliant dramatisation “Insurrection” (written by Hugh Leonard) and wished I could see it again. There are several excerpts from it online now. (Why don’t they put the whole thing up?) Although it looks different, naturally dated somewhat, I still think the clips are great.
The RTÉ archives also contain marvellous interviews with survivors such as James Connolly’s daughter, recalling her and her mother’s visit to him before he was shot. Every day of the week has a separate page with a list of the special schedule for TV and radio and clips, though it’s a pity how many have been lost. (I know, one could say that about people as well.)
Here is a clip from an interview with Kathleen Clarke widow of Thomas Clarke, one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic (all shot). “You must make your goodbyes as casual as possible…I didn’t really ever see that he’d come through, I must say.”
Kathleen Clarke is also in this clip, talking about P. H. Pearse. One gathers that she remembers him not with any fondness, as an exceptionally silent type.
Former president Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh recalls the looting in O’Connell Street and his failed attempt to deal with it under orders from General (James) Connolly. Connolly subsequently talks about sending somebody to shoot some of the looters: “Shooting over their heads is useless. Unless some of them are shot, they won’t stop.” Ó Ceallaigh requests and is allowed to be excused from that duty. He doesn’t know if it was actually done. Here he is again, talking about the release of Bulmer Hobson.
“In this [vivid] extract, Norah Connolly O’Brien recalls making her way back to Dublin and her concern to find out how her father was.” She recalls a friend telling her, “They’re all dead and slaughtered. She battered us with words…” In another extract, she describes her [and her mother’s] final visit to her father before his execution.” Very beautiful, the words, but heart-rending. Because of Connolly’s injuries his execution was worse, if that is possible, than the others: they shot him sitting in a chair.
After the surrender, the hostility of other Dubliners to the rebels as they were marched away, is recalled by one of the prisoners. He thought that there was nothing left of Dublin, it was all fire, “still burning.”
There are other recollections of the leaders, people and events as well as coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies, the march in Belfast, and speeches by that sanctimonious old prig De Valera, who was largely responsible for the miseries of Ireland after 1916.
I was 11 in Easter, 1966. For the fiftieth anniversary of the rising, we had three giant new flagpoles installed by the entrance to the De La Salle primary school in Finglas, and we’d been practicing for weeks to sing on the occasion of their inauguration: The Foggy Dew and Roddy McCorley. About the hemp rope on his neck, the golden ringlets clung.
We were then all bused into O’Connell Street on Easter Sunday and marched to Croke Park for an extraordinary pageant. There were parades and displays by hundreds of variously costumed people portraying Irish history. Here’s an archive recording about the ‘Aiséiri’ [rising] pageant. The whole effect of the commemorations was an inoculation of nationalism that never needs any booster shots. The next time I marched from O’Connell Street was the Wednesday after Bloody Sunday in 1972, with 100,000 in protest to the British Embassy.
Perhaps I should close with the special version of the national anthem that was used at closedown every night for the week, with drawings of the seven signatories ending up with Pearse, proving again that the writing of poetry is no guide to good character.