28 December 2005

Poem One: Make Good

The first poem in this series coincided with the opening of the Dock. The building was originally the courthouse for the district of Carrick-on-Shannon and, since it was long the seat of the administration of colonial rule of law, it was not a bulding the local people warmed to. The Courthouse sits next to the old gaol buildings (now the County Council offices), and there is an underground tunnel connecting the two sites that was used to lead prisoners to and from the courtrooms. A dank, damp tunnel (photo is taken inside tunnel with grate newly added above it). The scaffold from which prisoners sentenced to death were hung is still affixed to the exterior of the old gaol building.

Since I've lived in the area, the Courthouse has been just a forbidding mass of hoarding as it was disused since 1994 and in bad structural shape. I made a number of visits to the site as it was being renovated (it's a really first-class, sensitive restoration/transformation overseen by Anne Fletcher from Coady Partnership, architects in Dublin) and found the seed for the first poem in the notes that Anne had made for the construction drawings. Then I ran into my neighbor in front of the building one morning, and he gave me the poem's first line verbatim. The photo here gives the entire text of the poem in its un-installed state. I'll type the poem in below too, as it might be hard to read from the photo, depending on your screen size. The text editing in Blogger doesn't do strikethroughs, which is what should be seen in the words "concrete slab" in line 13 below. The architects originally planned to completely cover over the prisoner tunnel. Then they changed their minds and covered in with a steel grate, so you can still look down into it and just imagine.

One Make Good

Séan said, No, I never had reason
to go into THAT place, Thanks be to God.
He cocked a calloused thumb
at the mass of scaffold
(dread word!) and blue hoarding--
Carrick-on-Shannon courthouse
where a poem is constructing
itself in the architects' general notes:

Match original lime harling render.
All existing to be made good.
Keep, salvage, strip, paint, repair.
Enclose tunnel access for prisoners to old
Gaol with concrete slab steel grate.
Overhaul, take down, cart away, keep level.
Open up. Hack off. Rake out. Reinstate.
Drains to be back-filled with river gravel.


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