Colm Keegan

The Mermaid Sequence

The Mermaid Sequence.

Colm Keegan

Written in attendance

to the Mermaid theatre

lockdown December 2020.


Two contrails pass

under the daytime moon.

Remember air traffic?

The sun rises over the hill.

Here in transport

our pilgrimage begins.

Masked children spill

two by two

out of four wheeled boxes

into small schools.

Horns beep, cyclists sweat,

hazards blink

everywhere at once.

Today is happening.

The 46a peeling

away from the path.

Rumble of trucklift.

Bustle of builders.

Clang of scaffolding.

The shift back to industry.

A line of green

between it all.

River that spawned the town

carrying itself out.

Walk past the busy cake shop,

past the stream of traffic,

past the Japanese restaurant

closed ‘til further notice.

Where the court rests

two guards bob their heads.


Here in all this business

the big room sits.

Our most powerful


Enter Mermaid under the chevron,

martlet above.

Past the tables and chairs

crowded into a corner

twisted like trapped fish

in a net hauled from water.

Past the gallery,

a picture of unseen things,

an innocent exhibition hanging.

No witnesses.

Walls adorned with drawings,

unrequited poems.

Rehearsal marks on the floor

where actors blocked out

white lines to mark the practice

of the last seen live performance.

Beyond, wires hanging limp from

cold unused lights.

High black drapes and

the screaming silence.

The speaker


The air with no memory

for all that lost applause.

Those standing ovations,

where did they go?


Have you ever slept in

an abandoned famine village?

The dark is a silence

you can feel it listening.

So quiet it drives people

toward the cliffs.

How much are we missing?

This is the stillness.

Four suicides buried

in a graveyard in Mayo.

For everything opened,

something stays closed.

A line has been drawn and

art is a ghost.

In an unused cup,

in a table skewed,

the absent flesh

of the skeleton crew.

All that must be forgone

so a chasm is crossed.

On stage, a figure

standing alone

in the glare of a laptop,

the future is downloading

to each captain a different helm,

to each a separate storm.

Call it what it is,

a start, or a pause, call it


the curtain’s coming up.

Colm Keegan

Colm Keegan is a poet, playwright and educator from Dublin, Ireland. He has written two poetry collections “Don't Go There” and “Randomer,” both available from Salmon poetry.

He has developed numerous creative writing programmes for schools and colleges across Ireland including the Inklinks Project and South Dublin Epic.

His debut full-length play “For Saoirse” was shortlisted for the Fishamble New Writing award. In 2020 he was commissioned by the Abbey Theatre to write “Something Worth Saying,” which was called ‘exquisite and devastating’ by Emer O’ Kelly in the Irish Times.

The Mermaid Sequence was kindly supported by Wicklow County Arts Office and is a response by the artist to being in Mermaid Arts Centre during Covid 19, when the arts centre was closed to the public.