A Demonstration by Jessica Traynor, poem celebrating Dr. Kathleen Lynn

Posted in Connect on April 27, 2016.

One of a series of poems commisioned by the Irish Writers Centre to commemorate the 1916 rising. http://irishwriterscentre.ie/pages/a-poets-rising



Letter by this morning’s post to say I may go home for Xmas if I won’t have a demonstration (do they picture bands?)
– Dr Kathleen Lynn

What might drive me, a doctor,
to jump out of reason and into the fire
of rebellion? Haunted by skulls
that boast through the thin skin of children
who ghost the alleyways, dying
young in silent demonstration,

I raise my own demonstration
against my limits as woman and doctor.
I remember those I’ve watched dying
of gulping coughs, praise the mercy of gun-fire
that scythes through women and children.
I number those dead, count their skulls.

Outside city hall, a policeman’s skull,
shattered by a bullet. This is less a demonstration,
more a bewilderment of poets and children,
watched over by one errant doctor.
My convictions temper in the fire
and quicklime of what follows, the dying

man brought out and shot at dawn, the ever-dying
Cuchulainn with his necklace of skulls –
all that spitting, revolutionary fire.
And my part in that demonstration
won’t be forgotten, but as a woman doctor
put down to hysteria, or a lack of children –

for what are women really but children
themselves, living and dying
without reason? They say a real doctor
might cure me, could measure my skull
and tell its emptiness, demonstrate
my zeal was nothing but a mindless fire.

A rebel dying stokes the nation’s fire,
but starving children? Ask this doctor
to number our gains in skulls. Expect a demonstration.

A Demonstration by Jessica Traynor


Kathleen Lynn was one of Ireland’s great humanitarians; born in Mayo in 1874, she devoted her life to the care of the sick and for thirty-five years ran St Ultan’s hospital. Her connection to the Rising came about through her interest in women’s suffrage and her sympathy for Dublin’s workers, whom she supported in the great Lockout of 1913.

Made Captain of the Citizen Army on Easter Monday, Kathleen had to climb over the high gates in front of City Hall to take up her post under Sean Connolly.

When City Hall was captured by the British Army, Kathleen Lynn might have escaped, as the officer who first encountered her thought she had been brought in to attend the wounded, but she proudly declared herself to belong to the Citizen Army.

Held for eight days in Ship Street Barracks, Kathleen and her companions were starving, sleep-deprived and lice infested by the time they were marched to Richmond Barracks and then Kilmainham Jail.

Jessica Traynor was born 1984 and hails from Dublin. Her first collection, Liffey Swim published by Dedalus Press in 2014 and was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine Award. She works as Literary Manager of the Abbey Theatre.

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