‘Cork Schoolgirl Considers the GPO O’Connell Street, Dublin 2016’ By Victoria Kennefick

Cork Schoolgirl Considers the GPO O’Connell Street, Dublin 2016

I am sixteen, standing outside the GPO
in my school uniform, which isn’t ideal.

My uniform is the colour of bull’s blood.

In this year, I am sixteen, a pleasing symmetry
because I love history, have I told you that?

It is mine so I carry it in my rucksack.

I love all the men of history sacrificing
themselves for Ireland, for me, like rebel Jesuses.

I put my finger in the building’s bullet holes;

poke around in its wounds.
I wonder if they feel it,

those boys, younger than me,

I hope they do, their blooming faces
pressed flat in the pages of my books.

I lick the wall as if it were a stamp,

it tastes of bones, this smelly city,
of those boys in uniforms,

theirs bloody too. I put my lips

to the pillar. I want to kiss them all. And
I do, I kiss all those boys goodbye.
Victoria Kennefick‘s pamphlet, White Whale (Southword Editions, 2015), won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition and the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. Her work has appeared in POETRY, Poetry News, Poetry Ireland Review, Prelude, The Stinging Fly, The Irish Times, and elsewhere. She was recently awarded a Next Generation Artist Bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland. You can follow her on Twitter @VKennefick.

Three poems by Victoria Kennefick


I have visited your grave many times expecting to find you
tending your plot, maybe with a shovel or a strimmer,
turning your handsomely-lined face towards the sun.

In Kilmahon cemetery, wild garlic excretes a heavy smell.
White bonnets bob at your wooden cross,
embarrassed to show their faces, roots grown so deep.

Reflected in the bronze plaque, my borrowed face,
my something blue. Your name, that date
engraved above pebbles surfaced, shyly, in the wake.

I see through soil and rotting wood to what remains of you,
with bare hands I’ll dig, scavenge your grave goods.
Count, collect, wash your bones, knit them together,

taste dirt under my fingernails, earth that reeks of ramsons.
The whole empty, swallowed, to fill with rainwater
and white feathers. Wild garlic lingers,

a confusion of scents and sense. You pull your weeds,
in your element. Heaviness tugs at me, you do too.
A corset I wear made of your ribs, my rib that made you.

(from the pamphlet White Whale , Southword 2015)

A bloated calf floated downriver
you turned me away;
I looked over your shoulder
at the off-white belly, curly-haired
in the city’s storm-swollen water.

I wanted to wade in, drag it
dripping onto the pavement, slit
the distended belly down the middle.
Its guts would plop out, shock concrete.
In the packed entrails maybe there’d be a clue.

The calf watched me back with cataract eyes.
Impotent seers, we tried to divine
the meaning of this, still holding hands.
There was no liver to dissect, no blood.
All the same, it did not augur well.

(Winner of the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize 2013)

They say that when they laid his bloated body
in her open arms she tried to dry him
with her long red hair; her tears
threatened to drown him all over again.

They say that when she finally let go,
her fingers were puckered;
in the morning her hair was pure white.
She never left the corner house again.

They say she fell away to nothing.
Her bones barely held up pale skin,
sail-taut against the storm of winds
that prevailed night after night.

They say she haunted windows,
watched the water, her face a perfect sphere.
And the crews, sailing the rising sea,
often mistook her for the moon.

(Highly Commended in the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition 2014)
Victoria Kennefick (@VKennefick) is a native of Shanagarry, Co. Cork. A Fulbright scholar, her poems have been published in The Stinging Fly, New Irish Writing, Bare Fiction, The Penny Dreadful, and elsewhere. In 2013 she won the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2014 judged by Emily Berry. Her chapbook, White Whale, won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry Competition and was launched at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2015. It is available for purchase online here.