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Vacant Possession by Anne Fitzgerald

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Finding Myself in Werburgh Street

Fitzgerald, Anne

In the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough 
up along Dame Street, past the Olympia  

and Dublin Castle, in earshot of Christchurch 
bells, Werburgh Street Church stands above 

Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s vault, atop of   
Swift’s baptismal font, not a stone’s throw 

from where birth and death records lie, 
like coordinates to be plotted, half-truths 

waiting to be lies on deValera 
and McQuaid’s map of cardinal truths.

I take down oversized red bound birth 
books for 1965 in the records room, 

turn pages heavy with births from Skull, 
Mizen and Hook Heads to Sheep’s Hollow

beyond boarder crossings, flyover latitudes,
boreen longitudes and oyster beds where sand 

and grit form pearls under blatherwrack, 
an irritant stuck inside the oyster’s body

swaying to salt making free with buoyancy 
around the Ring of Kerry and Cliffs of Moher

as I run my finger across districts and parishes: 
Annagor, Belmullet, Cahir, and Drumcondra 

the Swine of Pigs, in the diocese of Clonturk 
where real fiction lives. Though not the Book 

of Kells, it illuminates a pentimento of fibs, 
stretching back to the foundations of belief.

Not five minutes shy of two hours I lean into 
a past of myself, as unrecognisable as a wild 

pearl, iridescent and luminous as the shell itself 
or my fingerprint smudged. Reading my birth 

name given is like a foreign language forged 
in copperplate, a kind of twisted mother-tongue 

as if finding the needle, without eye or haystack, 
purposefully sent to hit a dead end by the grace 

and blessings of the Archbishop’s handmaidens. 
Without Theseus thread of Adriane, nurse Gallagher 

cuts the chord, registers me by her own hand, 
every slope and ink incline a natural fabrication  

of this twenty-six year old’s maiden name, who 
didn’t comfort me as my first tooth breaks through, 

hold me at night as my breath is given over to 
coughing for the loss of you, or watch me not fall 

down as one foot follows the other in a gait you’d 
half recognise disappearing into a crowd years later.

Instead you commend me into the geometry of a life 
you’d not foresee. All the while, wondering from a distance.


Copyright © Anne Fitzgerald 2017

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