grey skulls piled on ground
Photo by Renato Danyi on


Butcher’s Dozen
By: Thomas Kinsella

“More mangled corpses, bleeding lame, Holding their wounds. They chose their ground, ghost by ghost, without a sound, And one stepped forward, soiled and white…”


Analysis: This poem is told like an event, displaying the happenings of Bloody Sunday in an engaging piece of writing. The title effectively captures the tragedy which it intends to display. A butchers dozen is a brilliant use of a popular phrase to suggest something sinister and in fact, 13 were slaughtered on that day. Bloody Sunday was a day when unarmed civilians were shot down in cold blood by the British. To read all about Bloody Sunday click this link:

The poem starts angrily, heavily cementing the idea that Bloody Sunday will long live on in the hearts of those wronged. Throughout the lengthy piece, a few ghosts of those murdered step forward to contribute their own horror stories to this tale of anguish. The poem has a rhyme scheme of AABB and eight syllable lines in a single unending stanza which contributes to the ballad feel carried through the entire piece. The set structure is a nice contrast to the chaos ensuing in this event.

                                    *   *   *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Midway through the poem, it begins to accuse the British of being terrorists and even offers up a solution for this historical event: the British must publicly admit they were in the wrong, which they will never will (not to this day and it has been 40 years). This poem also calls out the church in the line “Pope and Devil intertwine”. Ireland is deeply rooted in its Catholic faith which led to a tangled mess of church and state, old-fashioned policies and dominance in areas it doesn’t deserve.

The event ends quietly and with a reverence, to symbolize the losses suffered and to loudly and boldly announce they were silenced after this travesty. The ghosts have returned back to their rightful places in the past and the narrator is propelled back into the present.

All in all, this was a deeply emotional event and Thomas Kinsella writes a deeply emotional poem as a tribute the hurt suffered by many that day. It was beautifully bold and filled with silent respect when necessary. I thought this poem was an excellent read. 9 out of 10 stars. Well done.

**************                   **************                  ***************              **************

“The gentle rainfall drifting down Over Colmcille’s town Could not refresh, only distill In silent grief from hill to hill.”


To read the full poem, click the link below:


Other Poems by Thomas Kinsella:

Another September
Fifteen Dead
Blood and Family 
The Familiar


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