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Rembrandt’s ‘Christ on the Cross’ 1631

A Café in Mullingar

by Jimmy O'Connell -

Howard Jones’ ‘No one is to blame’

pipes through a café in Mullingar

in the beat and thrust of electronified

syncopation. Am I the only one here

stopping for coffee and a blueberry muffin,

reflecting on Rembrandt’s painting

of a sun-deprived, grey-jaundiced

Jesus nailed to a pitch-singed cross

of cheap carpentered wood? Where within

the frame of shrouded silence he realises

his own abandonment, his fear-paralysed

eyes and gnarled screaming mouth tasting

the anguish of hope lost; this same cry

unheard in the agonised etching in an earlier

self-portrait wherein we too become

the Dutchman who has surely painted

the symbol of man as artist forsaken

between speech and dumbness, between

a God absent and the brittle belief in a

rolled-back stone and an empty tomb.

His Christ hangs bereft at our casual forgetfulness,

our walled-out emptiness now brimmed

with desires unfulfilled, and spent treasure

wasting. Is he with us now watching out

for Summer Sales and supermarket trolleys,

this café filling with shoppers and wandered-souls,

heedless of piped music in relentless loop?


Jimmy O’Connell was born in Dublin. He is a graduate of UCD. Jimmy has been writing and performing his work for many years in the Irish Writers Centre, Sunflower Sessions and other venues. His poetry has appeared in The Baltimore Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Stepaway Magazine, Flare 7 & 10, and Poetry for a New Ulster among others. A collection of his poetry Although it is Night was published by Wordonthestreet in 2013. He has recently published his first novel, Batter the Heart. He is at present working on a play based on the life of Margaret Cusack, The Nun of Kenmare.


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