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.