Jessica Traynor – A Demonstration – A Poet’s Rising


Doctor 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, because 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 Richmonds Barracks and then Kilmainham Jail. Jessica Traynor was born 1984 and hails from Dublin. Her first collection, Liffey Swim
was published by Dedalus Press in 2014 and was shortlisted for the Strong/Shine Award. What would drive this doctor,
to jump out of reason and into the fire of rebellion? Haunted by skulls
that boast through the skin of children ghosting the alleyways,
dying young in silent demonstration, I raise my own demonstration
against my limits as woman and doctor. I think of those I’ve watched dying,
praise the mercy of gun-fire that scythes through women and children. I number those dead, count their skulls. 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 themselves really but children,
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 rebels dying stokes the nation’s fire,
but starving children? Ask this doctor to number our gains in skulls. Expect a demonstration.

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