Achill Killeen by Eva Bourke
The holiday cottages across the bay are tired
from rowing all night through the surf
and lay their oars aside.
Far out between two rocks the sun opens
a blue door and ushers a trawler and crew
into the glittering high rise of the day.
A tortoiseshell butterfly leads me
to where the waves unravel
all over the sand.
It is a scrap of the lost map
of the island blown here and there
with its brown wings
and delicate black delineations.
I stand in a field above the sea strewn with pieces
of white quartz
each marking a child’s grave.
The stones are bright lamps lifted
out from the earth and placed
on a makeshift altar:
the old gods have come down
from the mountains
to watch over the field in pity and silence.
The children had slipped out of reach
and into the earth so fast
their names were not written on stone.
But the young parents who knelt
on the hillside knew them by heart—
grief they were called, loss and anguish.
All day a mild wind rakes the grass
and the clouds rush their cargo
of birds eastwards.
All day my feet go
here and there—all day my heart
wants to stand still.
A killeen was a graveyard for children who died unbaptised.
from THE SHOp