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April 29th 1945
Flesh. / Smoke. / History nests in this dark cage of Europe; prison-
camp of political prisoners: such women, ghosts from the Great
Famine, the black potatoes of their broken hearts. The most poisonous
springtime ever, us looking at the handiwork of Europe. / Dear Christ,
a Holocaust. / In we go, Irish and Grenadier, into the poisoned cage of
Sandbostel: poets and philosophers of France under lock and key, scent
of death, taste of Fascism. Prison guards shouting ‘Nicht Nazi! Nicht
Nazi!’ The SS heroes already run away. Guardsmen! Let me cut a poem
in stone: for Kenneally and Charleton, for the others who lost their lives
between desert and sea, between bridge and canal and flooded Dutch
towns; for those Irishmen with shattered arms, holding their Brownings
against their dying frames. / But there’s no victory here, nothing left for
the ordinary Irish Guardsman. / This prison sails across history like the
fishing boat out of neutral Helvick, slipping away under the light of the
moon. The screech-owl questions us: what happened here in this lonely
place? Nothing here but the naked body of the night, the trees stretched
on a hillock like dead soldiers. / ‘What happened here, Oh, Geraldine?’
/ Poetry of desperation in my heart, sadness of this earth in my mind. I
hear prisoners screaming / the gun-powder of history red with blood. I
think of the grief around me instead of liberation. Every wretched
mother of Europe, like a hen pheasant in the woods at Glenshelane,
stealing away with her own personal Christ; her last possible Christ in
this ruin / this ruin of Europe’s soul.