All Saints’ Day

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All Saints’ Day


The number elevens on the necks

of hungry children. Tendons pushing

flesh at the base of the head. They record

the odds. One to one. A fifty-fifty

chance of making it out alive.

And in what way? With no winnings.

That was 1973, the same year

poor kids and men burned a black horse

alive on Halloween night, leading her to the grassy

patch of the estate the Church plotted

and shaped like a Celtic cross, each road

named after an abbey or site of holy

significance. But Clonmacnoise and Cashel

mean something different when you’re getting

your head kicked in, or when the sight

of humping dogs on your walk home from school

reminds you of the Christian Brother

pressing himself into your back.


In the County museum tiny shoes

are lined up in the glass case. The caption says

how strange it was that they were given shoes

at all. In the next room there’s an eviction

of mannequins from a thatched cottage.

They still wear their clothes-selling expressions

and painted nails under tattered bonnets and rags.


Has a flashed cunt quelled the pyre lately?

Put an end to the number elevens? What

of the gierador, the living sheela-na-gigs,

the hags, the women who simply lift

their skirts and end the insanity

with a How dare you? Or are cunts too

tidy now? Neatly swept and fumigated

for all our sakes, or rubbed out, hacked down

from church walls. The lips, and hands that opened them,

pulverized. Eyes left behind sometimes,

but nothing to attest to what’s seen. Shut her up,

they say. Close down from whence we came.


We slide our hands along the whips and gags

for sale, stare back at the glass eye on the ceiling

and the mannequins in the corner, consider the options

of frills or leather. A strap around the neck

would conceal well-fed flesh. A rubber

ball in the mouth would shut me up.

I’ve been saying far too much.

Too loud. Sounding off. How dare I?

What sound did the black horse

make on the make-shift pyre?

How did she look as she picked her way

over broken toys and doors? Who

paraded her round and rode her

to the green, already wet with petrol?

On All Saints’ Day whose legs

could still feel her shape?

Kimberly Campanello‘s chapbook Spinning Cities was published by Wurm Press in April 2011. She was featured poet in the Summer 2010 issue of The Stinging Fly and was selected to read in the 2011 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. Her work has appeared in magazines in the US and Ireland. She is an editor of Rowboat, a new magazine dedicated to poetry in translation.

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One Response

  1. Gleny Kohnke

    October 23, 2011 1:05 am

    I find Kimberely Campanello’s poem at the same time provocative and meditative. I would encourage all readers to become familiar with the Sheela-na gigs to fully appreciate the depth of this work. Congratulations Kimberley