Liam O'Neill

The Railings of Government Buildings

We had different shadows in those days;
they cast out long and thin, but that
was under a different Sun, before the
weight of the universe shifted, and we found
ourselves, less humble, less altruistic,
and less significant – than we previously thought.

Our ideologies shifted daily in those days too;
as we marched, walked and chanted. Singing
off key and drinking pots of tea and porter
in backstreet bars and debating over poverty,
equality, and rising up in outrageous protest at the
immoral behaviours of those in authority.

These days, our silhouettes, separated by
distance and time zones, are larger and wider,
as we move slowly and sluggishly along the high
street stores or the housing schemes of suburbia.
Our individualised protests, more silent now,
more subdued, self-injurious and scolding.

Occasionally though, when I find myself in the city,
and passing the railings of government buildings,
a pang rises up inside; a longing to return to the days
of that younger Sun, and to march beside and in-step
with you my trusted friend, and bathe once again,
in the fantastic light of youth, purpose,
and the demonstrable truth.

This poem first appeared in Let Us Rise; Anthology of the Limerick Soviet 1919 (Jan 2019), and then in The Children of the Nation: Working People’s Poetry from Contemporary Ireland edited and introduced by Jenny Farrell (Culture Matters, 2019)

Liam O'Neill © 2019