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About this poet

Pádraig Ó Tuama received a BA (Div) from Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, and an MTh from Queens University Belfast. He is the author of the poetry collections Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community (2017), Sorry for Your Troubles (2013) and Readings from the Books of Exile (2012), all published by Canterbury Press in the United Kingdom. He is also the author of In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015), a book of spiritual reflection.

From 2014-2019, Ó Tuama was the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization, which works with over 10,000 people a year to transform division through human encounters, with focuses on sectarianism, marginalization, public theology and the legacies of conflict. Ó Tuama lives in Ireland.

Hunger Strikers

And there was banging on the bins that night
and many frightened people woke
and noted down the hour.
The clock of hunger-strikers dead is not ignored with ease
and ‘please, God, please keep loved ones safe’ was then
repeated round and round and round
like rosaries told upon a bead,
or shoes upon the ground of orange walking.

The five demands, the five-year plan
that saw a blanket round a man,
the dirty protest, Thatcher stance,
that gave a new and startling glance
at just how deep a people’s fury goes.
And God knows each single mother’s son
was sick of hunger,
all those younger faces became stripped and old
eyes shrunk back and foreheads cold & bold
with skin that’s limp and paper thin,
barely separating blood and bone from stone.

And some did say ‘enough is now enough’
and others said that ‘never, never, never will a martyr die,
he’ll smile upon us long from mural’s wall.’
And others said ‘what nation’s this?
we’re abandoned on our own—
all this for clothes to warm some dying bones.’
And some said ‘that’s a traitor’s talk’
and others bowed their heads and thought that they
would hate to go that way.

Then Bobby Sands was dead
and there was banging on the bin lids on the Falls
echoed through to Shankill gospel halls.
And there was trouble on the street that night
and black flags started hanging while
people started ganging up,
black flags marking out the borders of belonging
the thin black barricade
that’s been around for thirty years
and stayed a fragile point up till today and cries
of how ten mothers’ sons all starved and died
when all they ate was hope and pride

“Hunger Strikers” Originally published in Sorry for your Troubles (Canterbury Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.

“Hunger Strikers” Originally published in Sorry for your Troubles (Canterbury Press, 2013). Copyright © 2013 by Pádraig Ó Tuama. Reprinted with the permission of the poet.

Pádraig Ó Tuama

Pádraig Ó Tuama

Pádraig Ó Tuama is the author of Sorry for Your Troubles (Canterbury Press, 2013). From 2014-2019, Ó Tuama was the leader of the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. He lives in Ireland.

by this poet

poem
And on the first day 
god made 
something up. 
Then everything came along: 

seconds, sex and 
beasts and breaths and rabies; 
hunger, healing, 
lust and lust’s rejections; 
swarming things that swarm 
inside the dirt; 
girth and grind 
and grit and shit and all shit’s functions; 
rings inside the treetrunk 
and
poem

In-between the sun and moon,
I sit and watch
and make some room
for letting light and twilight mingle,
shaping hope
and making single glances last eternity,
a little more,
extending love beyond the doors of welcoming,
while wedding all the parted people,
even sons to

poem

‘You’re too young
to know about The Troubles,’
the peaceman said.

And the youngman said:

f a t h e r s h o t d e a d
m o t h e r f e l l a p a r t
b r o t h e r f e l l i n t o h i m s e l f
o t h e r b r o t h e r s e n t t o l i v e w i t h o t h e r s
a n d m e i s m o t