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Noel Monahan – Nun’s Graveyard

P Noel Monahan LE P&W Vol 2 2019

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Poems by Noel Monahan

Noel Monahan has published eight collections of poetry. His most recent collection: Where The Wind Sleeps, New & Selected Poems, was published by Salmon in May 2014. He has won numerous awards for his poetry and drama. His work has been translated into Italian, French, Romanian and Russian. His most recent plays include: “The Children of Lir” performed by Livin’ Dred Theatre. His poetry was prescribed text for the Leaving Certificate English Course 2011 and 2012. His seventh collection of poetry: “Cellui Qui Porte Un Veau” a French translation of his work was published by Allidades, France in October 2014. An Italian selection of his work was published in “ Tra Una Vita E L’Altra”, published by Guanda, 2015. His work appears in the recent Anthology of Poetry “Windharp” Poems of Ireland Since 1916, edited by Niall MacMonagle and published by Penguin, 2015. A new collection of poetry entitled: “Chalk Dust” was published by Salmon Poetry in May 2018. This is Noel’s eighth collection of poetry.


Nuns’ Graveyard

Killashee, Co.Kildare

How peaceful it is, grey enclosed walls,
Dark metal crosses mark the dead,
Barely remembered, except for religious names:
Sister Martha, Sister Angela …
I try to picture them now, porcelain nuns’ faces
Chanting across a chalk-line of time,
All their teaching head-aches over
All daughters of Christ once,
Their souls now fly with the swallows
And life moves on.
We have fallen crazily in love with ourselves
Our phones our cameras, we live in the iPad, iPhone
Moment, taking photos of the nuns’ graves today
Barely remembering them tomorrow.

Grunewald’s Painting

On the Crucified Christ

Confession was a Catholic cure for sin
And we recalled Grunewald’s haunted painting
Of the death of Christ:  Mouth agape,
Crown of thorns, smear and spots on his skin,
Nailed contorted hands and feet,
A lamb with a sword-cross through its heart
Blood dripping into the Holy Grail.
What word became flesh, dwelt amongst us?
Driving us into dark confession boxes
Year after year after year…
Our heads in our hands, our accusatory demons
Shouting out loud: When I was hungry, when I was thirsty…
Now the noise of hammered nails is silent.
We no longer confess. We bear our guilt, carry it everywhere.


Ghosts of History

Sometimes I feel I can see in the dark,
See into the night of things … see into the black chaos.
Make my way under the stairs and discover what’s there:
All the discarded objects of yesterday … old clothes, old Christmas decorations,
Forgotten toys … unread books.
We can read in the dark
We have the stars and the moon to show us the way.
But even then, we can’t help putting people into categories,
Into boxes from the past, we all bear guilt of doing so:
Historian, teacher, journalist …
We put School Children into boxes. Add and subtract them.
We put houses into categories, 1st, class, 2nd. class houses,
Look at the census returns, we invent boxes for everything.
We invent boxes for ourselves
For the duration of our entire lives and all to cover our faces
With a mask.
This is why even the most objective account of a life,
A period in history can only be a fiction …
A drama and one of several possible dramas.
The ghosts of history are never far away.
The past is continually present
We carry it about with us where ever we go.
There are no real borders in our history
Only slippery lines sliding into yesterday.


© Noel Monahan