Irish Famine memorial tablets

Lockdown Lights: The Simmy

In solitude I came at last on this exhausted ground,
Of tarmac, stone and railing
Where sandstone pillars bear quiet testament
To this abandoned field.
Sweet soil, that once gave birth to daffodils and snowdrops
To mark each year the hope of spring.
Now you lie trampled underfoot and barren
To hold on our behalf the burdens of the past,
As if it is that easy to forget.
Is there prospect of redemption here?
Should I stretch out upon this ground, as is the tradition,
To weep my tears into the soil?
Claw the senseless earth
Conjure it to life and claim it back?

Is there a city underneath this hardened skin?
Where souls more bone than flesh
Once came to rest here in the heart of Vauxhall,
America for them a dream too far?
No stones, no stunted grass or tarmac grit can now remember.
Nor children, nor passers-by.
Who now recalls that here a church once stood
To proclaim this derelict burial ground
Where old dead bones still tremble to the rhythm of the lorries’ thunder?

Here, your dignity in death was the kindness of strangers.
The grandeur of the church not granted,
The sky became your vaulted canopy
The salty mist your unction.
The merciful dark your coffin.
In threadbare winding sheet, by single candle-light,
They passed you down from hand to hand
Their solemn prayers each whispered to the wind.

Do lingering bones still cower here
Like the jagged ribs of some old shipwreck?
Are there skulls? Each an empty tabernacle
That once cradled memories of a life?
Here in this no-man’s -land
Light as a feather you were left.
And as they lowered you,
Might one last breath
Have been released,
To wing into the western sky
And escape this ground forever?

Written and provided by Greg Quiery, poet, historian and author.


Lockdown Lights is an open source project, collecting community stories about people’s experience of the lockdown during the 2020 Coronavirus restrictions. The project was funded by the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme Covid-19 relief fund. We would like to thank all the participants and the Irish Government for their support.

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