Sunday, 22 May 2016

Beauty Born: A Poem

By E.M. Powell

In Ireland's 1916 Easter Rising, 590 people were killed:  374 civilians, 116 British Soldiers, 77 insurgents and 23 members of the police forces. But these figures do not show that 40 were children aged 16 and under. Irish broadcaster and writer Joe Duffy has told their story in his moving book, 'Children of the Rising', and it was one of those accounts that inspired me to write this piece.

Little Sean Francis Foster was one of the first to lose his life in the Rising on Easter Monday morning. He was in his pram when he was shot, according to his death certificate, ‘through the head at the level of ears’. His mother, Katie, was with him. He was two years and ten months old. My poem, 'Beauty Born', is about that event.


This death carriage needs no plumed horse to turn heads to its passing,
with ripped hood and scorched cover that skewer every eye.
The cheerful sun stares down on shattered glass 
and splashed milk, and every running streak 
turns bile-sharp in its gaze. 

Smeared berry red, a tiny mouth yields only iron’s tang 
to pleading, screaming kisses. The silent wound 
that gapes, that glisters with afterbirth’s deep warmth, 
will never need a doubter’s hand to test 
a rapid resurrection. 

No close-worked wool or crochet shawl will halt its lasting cool.
Void-stained creases are washed and rinsed with soft cotton and water,
cut through with salted torrent from a womb’s unemptying font.
Then dried with care and covered clean and dry and stiff with starch
to aid a peaceful rest. 

Hands on beads beg for reprieve to the Virgin whose man-child 
visited but three days’ death before rising up again.
Yet only silence leaves the lowly beggar to hang on nails of grief,
while those who latched on to a dream, suckled hard with eager mouth,
stalk through time like Lazarus, 
and beauty born is gone. 

Image credits:
'Children of the Rising' by Joe Duffy cover: © Central Press/Getty Images.
Pram: Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armoury) / Samuel Uhrdin / CC BY-SA via Wikimedia Commons
Celtic cross is © E.M. Powell.

MIW member E.M. Powell was born in Cork City into the family of Michael Collins. 

She now lives in Manchester with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog. Her medieval thriller Fifth Knight series has reached bestseller lists in the U.S., the U.K. and Germany.

Book #3, THE LORD OF IRELAND, was published by Thomas & Mercer on April 5 2016. She is also a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for & edits English Historical Fiction Authors, and reviews fiction & non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society and is part of the HNS social media team. Her website can be found at

Elaine wrote 'Beauty Born' for MIW's commemorative event, '1916: The Risen Word', which was performed at the Irish World Heritage Centre, Manchester on March 10 2016. MIW received the generous support of the Embassy of Ireland for this event.

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