Plague under Paradise. A Poem by Thomas Desmond

And the cuckoo called into the April air
Half way down in the wood,below the skyline there that year
And three doves circled overhead
From a desperate height
Like the thee wise men lost
With no Star in sight, would they stay?
Or flee in flight into a darker day
Or pray to find their shadows by moonlight
Sliabhnamon that year was a paradise
As we trod above that ancient layer
We hollowed out a hole like a hollow moon where their embers sank in an arc
And settled, simmering in a silent sleep
For six hundred years…and then!!
A stone came up from the bottom layer
With a cross scratched on
Like a blessing there in a hurried rush
Before the plague raged in
Like a scythe in the devils hand
It cleared a path into no mans land!!
Did a bell chime clear on that hallowed hill…was redemption near?
In the desperation there!!
As a seedling Oak broke through
Into the April air, like a child’s cry
On its birthing day
And further down in the dawn
A butchers block with the edges chopped in a crooked line
With a sharpening stone
And a broken blade rusted round
And crusted through
Into the barren ground
Its edge had gone and a millstone
Broke with a blow along
The centre hole
Lying at an abandoned hearth
Like half a soul!
As a mystic hare with an eagles eye
Watched us there like a dethroned heir
To a lost Kingdom…there!
Did God move on to higher hill
To leave the devil do
What the devil will
As the cuckoo called into the April air?
Or was redemption near under that
Hollow moon..did April
Blossom in May
Or did the devil swoop at break of day
Did the sky cave in and bury….Sin!!



Thomas Desmond lives in Waterford and has worked as an archaeologist for 30 years, this poem refers to an excavation under the foot of Sliabnamon in 2017. A medieval site possibly abandoned during the plague !

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