Lost and Found by Gerry McDonnell

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Poetry
Lost and Found

By Shai Afsai

In addition to his other writings, Dublin author Gerry Mc Donnell (McDonnell) has produced a unique series of poems, plays, novellas, and essays related to Irish Jewry. Mc Donnell’s Lost and Found (Lapwing Publications, 2003), a narrative poem centering on Mono, a homeless Jewish man living in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, is part of that lifework.

As a Jew and as a homeless man living outdoors, Mono is both figuratively and literally an outsider. His very name suggests a person alone and apart. Furthermore, Mono is intimated to perhaps be one of the thirty-six lamed vav righteous people who in each generation, according to rabbinic teachings, ensure the world’s continued existence (ל”ו צדיקים); the Hebrew letters vav and lamed feature prominently on the book’s cover. (Their order appears to have been reversed due to a printing error.)

One evening in the park, during the Jewish Festival of Booths/Tabernacles, Mono comes across a tent and a friendly man warming himself beside a fire. Mono approaches the man, who invites him to tea.

Sometime after that encounter, however, Mono is robbed in the park by a drug addict in need of a fix who is also a hater of foreigners. After robbing him, the man repeatedly demands to know where Mono is from. When his fellow addict suggests that Mono is ‘a refugee,’ the robber states that he reviles those people. The man stabs Mono even after being given whatever money the homeless man has.

Mono’s attackers may not know or care about his specific religious beliefs, but he is murdered due to their insane hatred. Mono’s homelessness and foreignness — and his abuse at the hands of bigots, initially in London and finally in Dublin, as recounted in the poem — culminate (as they did historically for most of Europe’s Jews during the Second World War) in dispossession and murder.

Lost and FoundIndeed, portions of this moving poem may also be read allegorically, especially in the context of Mc Donnell’s cumulative writings about Jews.

(c) Shai Afsai

Order your copy online here.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books