Breda Joyce, Mute


In the Jewish Museum in Berlin
we walk on the faces of the dead.
The soles of our shoes make the sound of railcars,
the clatter of carriages trundling over steel.

Thousands of empty eyes stare back at us;
open-mouthed, they protest soundlessly,
dismembered, flattened discs
beneath our feet.

Then I see them among all the others:
a baby’s mouth unopened, no cry uttered,
while her mother’s eyes close against the horror
about to befall them.

I bend and lift both ice-cold discs and feel
their frozen story seep through my fingers.
My warm breath stains steel
and cold enters me.

I lay them gently down, these two forgotten faces,
side by side:
unseeing mother,
muted child.

In the Jewish Museum, Berlin, the visitor is invited to walk over some of the 10,000 steel discs in the Memory Void space. These discs are sculpted in the form of the tortured faces and gaping mouths of the men, women, and children who met their deaths in the gas chambers.

Breda Joyce lives in Co. Tipperary and holds an MA in Creative Writing from UCC. Her collection Spindrift was commended in the 2019 Fool for Poetry Chapbook competition. Her poem ‘Visiting Rites’ was shortlisted for the recent Fish Lockdown prize. Other poems have been shortlisted or longlisted for the 2019 Hennessy Award, the 2020 and 2019 Anthony Cronin awards, the 2019 Over the Edge Award, and the 2019 Kinsale Literary Festival. Her poem ‘Free Fall’ won the 2018 Judith Aronson Likeness competition.

Breda has had poetry published in Crannóg, Crossways, Skylight 47, The Galway Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Bangor Literary Journal, Tinteán, the worldwide anthology, Poetry for Peace, The Quarryman and The Kilkenny Broadsheet.

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