The dying synagogue at South Terrace

by Thomas McCarthy

Chocolate-coloured paint and the July sun
like a blow-torch peeling off
the last efforts of love.
More than time has abandoned this,
God's abandonment, God's synagogue,
that rose out of the ocean
one hundred years from here.
The peeling paint is an emmigrant's
guide to America - lost on the shore
at Cobh, to be torn and scored
by a city of luftmenshn;
Catholics, equally poor, equally driven.

To have been through everything,
to have suffered everything and left
a peeling door. Yahweh is everywhere,
wherever abandonment is needed -
a crow rising after an accident,
wearing the grey uniform
of a bird of carrion, a badger
waiting for the bones of life
to crack before letting go:
wishing the tenth cantor to die,
the Synagogue to become a damp wall,
the wailing mouths to fester.
Too small. To be a small people
aligned to nothing is to suffer blame
like a thief in the night. An activist
threw a petrol-bomb for Palestine:

the sky opened and rained hail
like snow-drops. Flowers for memory,
petrol for the far-away.
To name one's land is to be a cuckoo
pushing others, bird-like, into a pit:
until, at the end, every sacred gesture
becomes vain, soiling the Synagogue
door like the charcoal corpses

at Mauthausen Station, 1944. A few
survived in the green valley of know-
nothing: spent themselves putting boots
on the Catholic poor, counting the brown
pennies, the corncrakes on their
trade routes, and the guerilla raids.

To sit here now, in the rancid sunshine
of low tide, is to contemplate
all of the unnoticed work of love -
exquisite children fall like jewels
from an exhausted colporteur's bag:
a mid-century daughter practises piano,
an etude to forget terror; a brother
dreams of the artistic life, another
shall practise law and become, in time,
the Catholic's tall Lord Mayor.
Where these jewels fall beside the peeling
door, let us place the six lilies of memory;
the six wounds of David's peeling star.