Remembering at a Civil Union

This was published in The Stinging Fly 2016 Centenary Edition “In the Wake of the Rising” Edited by Sean O’Reilly but since not many of my followers abroad will have seen it there I thought I would post it here now. Sorry about the double spacing in the poem …its a mystery..anyone have a solution?

Remembering at a Civil Union


“A terrible beauty is born” (W B Yeats, Easter 1916)


We wanted to remember how far we’d come

after twenty years of being together

as man and man fighting

to be relaxed about it;

remembering when you were ill

being asked if I were next of kin;

remembering the apologies

(even in Italian)

that a room was double not a twin.


Now sitting before an officer

of the Irish State and being asked

if we would care to light candles

(like at Hanukkah or Mass)

or exchange rings,

as though it were a wedding,

which it is not.


And so instead we asked to read:

a poem by Rilke and an excerpt

from a seventies’ manifesto

of the Gay Liberation Front.

We wanted to remember how far we’d come

in the forty years since then.


But must they now approve

the script and wording of the past

for fear it sits uneasy with this place

and time in which we rise

and so define ourselves?

Manifestos (it is said)

belong at factory gates,

at corners of a street,

or on steps of public monuments

inciting violence and struggle.


There’s no provision for appeal,

the senior registrar is resolute:

nothing political can be read.

But it’s history now not politics:

few remember politics.

It’s history you remember:

the shout and the embrace of it,

the creative dignity

of kissing in the street.


That’s beautiful it’s like

The Proclamation at the Post Office,

Yeats’s recurring line…

Can we read that?

There is silence, I think I’ve lost him:

he doesn’t know the text of that,

after all he wasn’t even born

and a hundred years is a long time:

try to celebrate.





















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