Orpen and Keating

Two bilingual tanka, in Irish and English, “Hail the Deserters” and “Weeping in their Graves,” 31-syllable poems (5-7-5-7-7), in response to work by two Irish artists, William Orpen and Seán Keating.

When the First World War broke out, Orpen’s assistant, Seán Keating, returned to Ireland, avoiding conscription, but Orpen stayed on, to support the “war effort.”

William Orpen has sixty-eight works on display at Wikiart, Seán Keating none.

Hail the Deserters

tréigtheoirí abú

fíor-laochra na cinniúna

a fhógraíonn an tsíth

teithigí ó pháirc an áir

leagaigí uaibh bhur n-airm!

hail the deserters

true soldiers of destiny

harbingers of peace

flee the sordid battlefields

all sides—lay down your arms now!

Weeping in Their Graves is in response to Keating’s painting Men of the South (1921).

Weeping in Their Graves

á, dá bhfeicfidís

ár nÉire iar-choilíneach

Coronation Street

leagáid lom uile na nGall

le deora líonfaí a n-uaigh

could our heroes see

post-colonial Ireland now

Coronation Street

all of England’s bare baggage

how they’d weep in bitter graves!

■ A recent tanka title from Gabriel Rosenstock is “Daybreak: Poem-Prayers for Prisoners”