Grace and Joseph
Summat I was asked to do for the 1916 centenary
What passed between unblinking eyes
When Grace Gifford, spinster,
Of Rathmines, Dublin,
(With child according to shocking sotto voce gossip)
And Joseph Mary Plunkett, bachelor,
Late of the General Post Office, Dublin
Temporarily residing in Kilmainham Gaol
Faced each other one pace apart
Barred from embracing by official decree?
What messages bridged the sombre silence
Breached by the priest intoning,
“In nomine, patris, et filii et spiritus sancti
I pronounce you man and wife”?
Omitting, “You may kiss the bride.”
Did Joseph look fondly to that belly
Where their child was knitting together
And wish to place his hand there
Or a listening ear for a heartbeat?
Did he yearn for the pulsing of Grace’s heart
Once more against his heaving chest?
Or were Grace’s lips his focus
To seal matrimony with a tender kiss?
As Grace Plunkett began to say,
“I’ll love you forever and our child,”
She was shouted down.
Joseph Mary Plunkett, father to be,
Wanted to say, “I love you, Macushla,”
But his broken toothed and
Consumptive blood-filled mouth
Garbled the words.
A blindfold blotted sunrise from his eyes
No hero’s medal pinned to his chest.
A white rag target fluttered there instead.
Did Joseph note the grim irony
That his racking cough
Would not finish him off
But this dawn rendezvous
At the sandbag stack
In the stonebreakers’ yard
The last words he heard?
Not Grace’s consoling,
“Goodbye, God bless,
We will meet in the better place.”
But the Ring Master’s barked command,
Joseph Mary Plunkett fell back
Before he heard the rifles’ crack.
© coolhermit 2020