Irish poet Alexander Fhionnuisce’s writing deals with the intersection of technology, alienation, and meaning in modern life. He was awarded University College Cork’s Patricia Coughlan award for his writing in 2017. His work is included in the anthology Atlantic Currents: Connecting Cork and Lowell (Loom Press, 2020).
(February 24, 2022)
It always begins with the crossing of
a boundary, insidiously innocent,
likely verbal, a subtle changing of tense,
or the conjugation of a state from a
fixed solid to a sudden, fluid mass.
The aggressor, confident in
ancestral authority, delivers
judgments from the comfort
atop hierarchy, “I,” they say,
“can do this because I am
older than you,” they justify,
“I am stronger than you,
and what you believe is yours
is yours only to the extent I grant
it,” they sneer “It of course,
all originating with me.”
Proclamations are rarely
enough for their kind, though
do not dismiss the joy with which
they speak the unspeakable,
already having thought the unthinkable,
what is left, but to do the undoable?
Borders, whether lined with barbed wire,
materiel, and the brave, or material that
separates flesh from air, seem so defined,
so immutable, until they are not,
What matter the years spent undisturbed,
if one can roll a tank, or a hand across
the line, and damage, deplete, violate?
A dark expansion, then, occurs,
The horizon shifts, and the bottom
of it all cracks, revealing a world in which
pressure confines from all angles,
Pressure that stuffs itself inside the shapes
of men, of women, of a mother, even,
and shows children sights to blind them.
The blade of a guillotine descends,
bisecting the mind from a future unsullied,
delineating clearly before this and after
this, to the point that one must beware
before this, for how innocent could
be the path that lead here?
And so we turn to body counts,
tabulations of damage, faceless
numbers, such as years since,
number of sessions, maladaptive
behaviours ceased as of . . .
All attempts to quantify the
We play at psychics, transporting
ourselves into the mind of those
who survey the world and judge
it their playground, devoid of
equals, populated with playthings,
“What do they gain?”, “Is this
how they secure their legacy?”
“How could they do this?”
Those of us in the trenches, if
we live to see another day,
think smaller; “How long
can I survive?”, “Is today the day it stops
hurting?”, or “Can anyone love
me after seeing these wounds?”
Our names slip through the cracks
of history, blotted out by statistics
and policy. Think of us, won’t you?
Build a memorial in your hearts
and let it shine like the sun.