Can You Hear the Shape of the Drum?

in Obituaries by

And when they decapitated the men wearing orange
we pulled up a chair goddammit, a chair

And with our fists goddammit
we protested under the stars beneath our roofs

in our safe homes with our fists,
slammed our tables like an iron bar

that slams the bonnet of a car,
we protested with our fists goddammit

And when they laid face down, face down
in prayer, face to hands, hands to face

to children’s hands cupped in mothers
in fathers, in brothers, in sisters goddammit

do you hear me?

the bullets ripped apart the calling of prayer
and they died in each other’s arms

Did we beat our fists upon the drum? Did we
battle cry or notify our neighbors about the news?

Did we?

And before he kicked open the door
with a mouth wide, stuffed with overtones,

to the people holding their hands to ears
William shouted can you hear the shape of the drum?

And when we turned our backs to watch the sun
cower upon the horizon, our hands in pockets,

fists dormant as tree buds,
William announced his immediate departure

and bashing his drum, the 49 dropped their heads
in silence to follow him through the open door


For the victims of Christchurch, New Zealand and W. S. Merwin



Stephen Byrne is an Irish chef, poet and food writer, living outside Chicago. He is the author of Somewhere but not Here which won the RL Poetry Award, 2016 International Category and was a finalist for the International Book Awards 2018. His work has appeared in numerous journals and online magazines including Warscapes, Poets Reading the News, The Galway Review, Riseup Review, Tuck Magazine. He creates recipes and food articles for the This is Galway website.

Photo from Unsplash.


Christchurch mosque shooting: The faces of the victims
[New Zealand Herald]

Poet W.S. Merwin, who was inspired by conservation, dies at 91