On the centenary of the Uprising, we tour
a Georgian house, Florence Court, home
of the Earls of Enniskillen, part
of the Protestant Ascendancy. We're Americans,
don't understand the significance of this date.
Instead, we take it all in: Palladian windows,
baroque plasterwork, ornate silver service,
hand painted porcelain. Downstairs
in the servants' quarters: the wine cellar
housing hundreds of bottles, the room set aside
for polishing, another room just for china.
A staff of twenty-four for this small family.
Servants were invisible, had to scuffle
down cold corridors with coal shuttles,
heavy trays of food, enter the dining room
from behind an Oriental screen. In the hall,
the omnipresent bells, still waiting to be rung.
Later, we read the Irish Times, see snapshots
of Dublin, parents bringing their children
to the General Post Office, where you can still
feel the bullet holes. This is not the Fourth
of July: no fireworks, barbecues, marching bands,
just a nation sobered by the civil war
that followed, the streets of blood, where,
Yeats wrote, a terrible beauty is born.
We leave in a downpour, and then the sun
comes out. An unironic rainbow, translucent
and fragile, follows us on a road
that had been cratered and bombed
during The Troubles, but is now paved over,
smooth macadam all the way home.
~Barbara Crooker

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