Home Culture ‘Crouched Burial’: An award-winning poem before bedtime

‘Crouched Burial’: An award-winning poem before bedtime

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'Crouched Burial': An award-winning poem before bedtime

FOR DECADES, THE Hennessy Literary Awards have been alerting us to some of the best new Irish writers around.

Last night saw three new writers being awarded prizes for their work, at an event in the Baroque Chapel in IMMA. At the 46th Hennessy Literary Awards, Sean Tanner was named the winner of the First Fiction category, Rachel Donohue won for Emerging Fiction, and Una Mannion for Emerging Poetry.

Rachel Donohue was then named the overall Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year. The winners were chosen by authors Elizabeth Day, Mike McCormack and The Irish Times New Irish Writing page editor, Ciaran Carty.

'Crouched Burial': An award-winning poem before bedtime

Una Mannion said her poem Crouched Burial was inspired by an incident that occurred when she was a teenager.

“The summer I was 15, a child’s body was found in our field in Culleenamore, County Sligo,” she explained.  ”The child, 2000 years old, was lying in a crouched position, on her side, fetal, arms holding herself. The imprint of her small frame in the earth and details of her burial shaped this poem.”

Here is the winning poem:

Crouched Burial, by Una Mannion

They move the earth with small trowels and brushes and

all week the seals sing a desolate chorus as if for you.

First a small child’s foot slow sweeps of the brush across your small bones,

your shape in the ditch, taking definition, a slow birth

in the corner of the field by the water’s edge.

You are lying on your side

knees pulled into your chest

the thin bones of your arms

holding yourself without your hands

your heavy head bent low toward your small body,

a comma in the earth,

like an ultra sound picture of the earth’s womb

where you lay crouched for years.

Beside your ribcage, a single blue glass bead

for your ear a bronze ring,

your grave gifts.

If flowers and herbs cradled your head,

they are dust now.

Someone brought you here

and laid you down with care

your death a secret, your story buried.

In the moon bay

at the edge of earth where they found you

the midden’s shelves layer time, like growth rings.

Now is our turn on the surface of time

you and your buried bead, prehistory,

before there were written words to remember with.

A sequence of milk teeth along the bone of your jaw and

the buds to permanent ones spell your age.

You are eighteen months old.

Your bones in the midden are a mystery

Iron Age people didn’t bury their dead

bodies were left to wind, or wolves or water.

But not you.

Perhaps touching your cold cheek your mother

could not abandon your body to the night

and here, where the land juts out toward the sea and the tide moves,

a place she might find again,

she brought you.

Check back on the site this weekend, when we share the two winning short stories.

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