Ruth Carr

Internment / Kilmainham letters / ‘The moderate men are sound asleep’

Ruth Carr

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a piece of an Ash tree in his loft, Mrs McTier, 1796 

ashplant or pike staff under the eaves

a pamphlet at your elbow by the loom –

all it takes to be herded on to

the tender out in the Lough


stagnating in the heat wave 

breathing in each other’s thoughts

fear spreading and typhus 

imagine the hills at sundown 

the fields on either side


ripening for the scythe.

Kilmainham letters     

with brother after brother marshalled south

houses ransacked

weavers on the run

countrymen hung by the heels and spun

whipped to unravelling

In plainest light 

the hand that balanced books tears up the sheet    

pays out a spidery thread

that gains its own momentum,

it is

entirely your hand slipping through the bars

to one who reads in that same light

beyond the ordered sentence

of the state, the church, the day

beyond unequal

no more full stops to halt the flow 

no halfway measures now         

no easy way to skirt

the field or scaffold

no airy tale   

let us not be terrified or dismayed,

but repose

with unlimited confidence

where we can never be deceived…

truth must prevail

Mary Ann McCracken in correspondence  her brother, Henry Joy. 1796 

‘The moderate men are sound asleep’

                                                             Dr Drennan





than us fair minded middle-of-the-roaders sleepwalking

our way past heads on spikes – have no fear – we’ll

not be rearing up at the crack of a lash on a woman’s back

or gagging as a body we know swings senseless






             of open ground 

                          an unbarred mouth 

                                       re-membered freedom of movement

Ruth Carr

Ruth Carr was a co-editor of hu in its previous life and founder member of the Word of Mouth poetry collective who last year published When the Neva Rushes Backwards, bi-lingual translations of Five Russian Poets (Lagan Press). Two collections: There is a House and The Airing Cupboard (Summer Palace Press), and a third in the making, with the assistance of an Arts Council Bursary to explore the parallel lives of two women usually defined by their sisterly devotion: Mary Ann McCracken and Dorothy Wordsworth.