GUEST POST: What the Virgin at Knock Would Say if She Could Speak

Here in Ireland we have had an extraordinary few weeks. Our government recently voted to allow abortion in limited circumstances. The debate is now being thrashed out in the Seanad, our upper house, which has seen rancorous exchanges. Meanwhile, many unpleasant untruths about our attitude to women, both in the present and past, have resurfaced. First we had ‘Lapgate‘, then ‘Fannygate‘, then some inflammatory speeches in the Seanad. Finally, the religious orders who ran the Magdalene laundries have refused to contribute to survivors’ compensation. Galway-based poet Kevin Higgins reacts below…

via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons

What The Virgin At Knock Would Say If She Could Speak

for Breda O’Brien and all at the Iona Institute


We need to get back

to when confirmed bachelors

found their own kind through holes in cubicles

during untelevised All Ireland Finals.

To when there were no government funded

lesbians on display in public parks,

or self-confessed sodomites in the Senate.

To when there was no obscene use for

Vaseline, or sexual intercourse in Headford.


To when no one put Coke bottles

where they weren’t supposed to go.

And there were no automatic

washing machines for women to sit on

when Rock Hudson was unavailable.

To when the Irish people stood

at the end of lanes waiting

for nothing to happen,

which it mostly did.


To when young ones who forgot to cross

their legs at the crucial moment could be put

steam ironing curtains for the golf club, sheets

and pillowcases for your mother’s B&B;

still be safely there eight o’clock

in the evening having hot flushes

the hottest day of that century

to which we must get back.



Kevin Higgins facilitates poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre; teaches creative writing at Galway Technical Institute and on the Brothers of Charity Away With Words creative writing programme for people with disabilities. He is also Writer-in-Residence at Merlin Park Hospital and the poetry critic of the Galway Advertiser. He was a founding co-editor of The Burning Bush literary magazine. His first collection of poems The Boy With No Face was published by Salmon in February 2005 and was short-listed for the 2006 Strong Award. His second collection, Time Gentlemen, Please, was published in March 2008 by Salmon. One of the poems from Time Gentlemen, Please, ‘My Militant Tendency’, featured in the Forward Book of Poetry 2009.  His work also features in the anthology Identity Parade – New British and Irish Poets (Ed Roddy Lumsden, Bloodaxe, 2010). Frightening New Furniture is his third collection of poems and was published in 2010 by Salmon Poetry. Kevin has read his work at most of the major literary festivals in Ireland and at Arts Council and Culture Ireland supported poetry events in Kansas City, USA (2006), Los Angeles, USA (2007), London, UK (2007), New York, USA (2008), Athens, Greece (2008); St. Louis, USA (2008), Chicago, USA (2009), Denver, USA (2010), Washington D.C (2011), Huntington, West Virginia, USA (2011), Geelong, Australia (2011), Canberra, Australia (2011), St. Louis, USA (2013) & Boston, USA (2013). Kevin’s fourth collection of poetry, The Ghost In The Lobby, will be published by Salmon Poetry in early 2014. Kevin is co-organiser of Over The Edge literary events. Mentioning The War, a collection of his essays and reviews was published in 2013 by Salmon.

One thought on “GUEST POST: What the Virgin at Knock Would Say if She Could Speak

  1. What wonderful imagery in this poem. You folk have a time ahead of you I am sure.
    I am not sure if the poet is advocating return to the ‘good old days’ or reminding us that we have moved from the days of innocence to a new world with ‘evils’ good and bad to be dealt with.

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