“Horseman Passing By,” “Looking Upon a Photo of Con Colbert” and “On Irish Accents”

by Shelby McBane

“Horseman Passing By,” “Looking Upon a Photo of Con Colbert” and “On Irish Accents”

Horseman Passing By

Picture me,
as I am,
propped
on these ancient stones
to watch the gloaming
come lazily in.

A soft pink glow,
a purple wall of clouds,
silhouettes of graves
rise
giants against the sky,
eternal homes for
starved-out
skeletons.

Horseman,
how many did
you take as you passed
through Ireland
on your plunder
of souls?

One million.

Famine?
Enough to
sate your appetite?

The stones crack,
thrown from
your horse’s hooves,
markers for lives
reaped.

Granite
to store
their memories.

Gravel
to fill
their bellies.

Looking Upon a Photo of Con Colbert

(Youngest Leader Executed from the 1916 Easter Rising)

Your face is striking
young, handsome.
Even in the faded color,
your eyes are bright
alive.

Something set
in your expression.

A leader.

Had I been
in your time, in that place,
I would have followed you.
I follow you now.

Mr. Colbert, when I look at your photo,
I see a life cut short?
I don’t mean to be disrespectful,
I admire your loyalty
fierce for your country,
and your cause.

I only wish
you could have seen
how it all ended up.

Forgive me, my invasion of your privacy,
I have read your final letters,
your final words.

Have I ever known men
who would face death
as you did?
Brave
and cool.

There are men
who have run head first into battle,
weapons at the ready,
battle cries on their lips,
but none of them
walking.

None of them
shook
their
enemy’s hand
or allowed
their escort to slaughter.

They didn’t tell the squad officer
“raise the pinned mark higher
to my heart.”

You did.

I’ve read that you were a devout
Catholic.
Did you know your soul
was safe?

Was the walking easier?

Or were you following His example,
walking
with your cross,

a sacrifice
for your people?

On Irish Accents

He opened his mouth to introduce
himself but I never learned his name.
All I heard was music
echoing from the cavern behind
his teeth.
We spoke for what felt like hours and
every time he finished a sentence
I wanted to applaud.
There were other lips, too,
who played their instruments
tuned to perfection.
Bodhrán salesmen talking to customers,
banjo teenagers plucking their smokes,
uilleann pipe mothers with tin whistle
infants in their prams.

I’ve never before been in
a crowd where melodies
were the sole language
spoken
and,
certainly,
I’ve never before
been among strangers
who treated me with conversation

made from a symphony.

About the Author

Shelby McBane

I’m a recent graduate from West Virginia Wesleyan College and while I have not had any poetry published, I have written various articles for The Odyssey Online (at West Virginia Wesleyan). These poems were written during and after my study abroad trip to Ireland in 2018. The magic, myth, and history of Ireland is something I’ve grown up with and I believe that (along with many Irish poets) has influenced my writing both in content and in form.