Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

Sulphur & Silence

by Ivor Kelly

It was out of the blue that day, no warning, no phone calls with
code-words, nothing, just death destruction and disappointment.
My daughter, my only daughter was walking down Talbot St in inner city Dublin that day at that particular time,
wrong place, wrong time, bad luck that that cost her and the others their lives.
They said they found her wallet in her handbag, the injuries were too severe to identify her otherwise.
I went anyway, recognised her brown boots immediately, she’d bought them just two weeks before.
Her face covered with newspaper, bright blood, gone. Her coat, her yellow coat torn to bits, shredded from
shrapnel stained with blood, smelling of sulphur, I can still smell it now.  
Thirty three people in all, 30 on site, three in hospital. Another life lost from a
pregnant mother, nine months, the child alive and unborn one minute to be dead in-utero the next.
As for those injured, 258 odd they say. Those injured, those dead that
you can count. Those that can’t be counted remain living, left to pick up the
pieces, bereft, lost in time remembering those who they lost forever.
Fours cars stolen from Belfast that very morning, loaded up with explosives,
gelignite or dynamite, placed, parked in position by each of the drivers.
Four cars, four bombs.
First explodes on Parnell street at five twenty-eight; 10 dead.
Second bomb, two minutes later Talbot street at five thirty; 14 dead.
Third bomb, another two minutes later, South Leinster street, at five- thirty two; 2 dead.
Then Monaghan at six fifty-eight, seven dead.
The bombers, the drivers, those responsible, none, none dead, none injured
and none caught, to this day. One wonders, what must have been going through their minds as they
pulled up and turned off the ignition for the last time?
Mission nearly complete, so far so good, another target, another objective, another operation?
What were they thinking as men, women and children walked by not knowing
what was awaiting? What are they thinking now, right now, this very second?
Perhaps they are no longer living, perhaps they met their own maker.
Perhaps they are living, perhaps they try to forget, they can’t, blood
still stains their hands, they remember alright.
Thirty seven years of grief and counting, still so palatable, still so
raw, raw as the flesh forced from the bones and bodies
off all those that just happened to be there,
that happened to be just unlucky that day in 1974.
Did they say sorry? Of course not, they didn’t go near that word, they have limits, that word, too sensitive,
far too unstable a word, who knows what that would be blown up to be, best just leave it be, let it rest.
Shame, regret, sorrow, sorry? No. Sorry is not a word to be tolerated in any shape or form, in it’s place
‘causalities of war’, in its place anything but peace, in it’s place those that need rest in peace but remain in pieces,
limbs blown apart, asunder, gone.
Another day, just another that day, that day that reverberates and ripples to endless sleepless nights ever since.
In those small hours I ask for silence, for stillness, I find it, for a second, then I hear it all again, the thunder,
the deafening blast of the explosives, screams of panic, streams of smoke and that pungent smell of sulphur
as I cried uncontrollably with my head pressed down by your new brown boots.

Added: 27.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


Moving portrayal; the "new brown boots" is very memorable and poignant.


seems like a poem that had to be written - image of brown boots very affecting and sad.


Very painful and moving story that conveyed well all the horror and grief in the writer's heart.