Victoria Kennefick is a writer, poet and teacher based in Co. Kerry, Ireland, and co-host of the Unlaunched Books podcast. Her pamphlet White Whale won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition, as well as the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry Magazine, The Poetry Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Ambit, The Stinging Fly and several other publications. Victoria was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to research at Emory University and GCSU in Georgia, and completed her PhD in English at University College Cork.
Cork Schoolgirl Considers the GPO, Dublin 2016
I am standing outside the GPO
in my school uniform, which isn’t ideal.
My uniform is the colour of bull’s blood.
In this year, I am sixteen a pleasing symmetry
because I love history, have I told you that?
It is mine so I carry it in my rucksack.
I love all the men of history sacrificing
themselves for Ireland, for me, these rebel Jesuses.
I put my finger in the building’s bullet holes;
poke around in its wounds.
I wonder if they feel it,
I hope they do, their blooming faces
pressed flat in the pages of my books.
I lick the wall as if it were a stamp,
it tastes of bones, this smelly city,
of those boys in uniform,
theirs bloody too. I put my lips
to the pillar. I want to kiss them all. And
I do, I kiss all those boys goodbye.
I have begun the purge.
Month of hunger,
from window sills, ice
slithers in puddles,
the smoky breath of animals
greets the air. Morning’s back
already broken, veins
obvious on everything.
of all things ripe
and wanton, I am winter grass.
Observe me survive
as earth’s shoulder blades
that jut, cut up the sky
that pushes down on all of us
as if it wants to die.
See, I am transparent
Starving, I count
my bones as valuable.
You are tugging at my skirt, aged two,
wanting a toy, a spoon from the drawer.
You are a few months old, just able
to hold your big old baby head up on that teensy neck.
It is your birthday. I am sweating and empty and you are
greasy-white with vernix, rising and falling with my breath.
I survived and you did too, your father is crying.
We are a little family, neat as a pin. Except
you are still waiting, Portia or Lucia or May
in parts. I carry a tiny piece I secrete
so secretly each month, you grow impatient when water
turns that warm and brilliant shade. It is alive
while you are not. Daughter-to-be, if you could form
your hands into little fists you would bang on my womb,
that carpet-lined waiting room, but your father has your fingers
and I have wrapped up your nails so you can’t rip me to ribbons.
We keep you apart, even as we come together, but I hear
him whisper your name, soft as blame in his sleep.