26 Treasures

By John Simmons

An illustrated anthology in which 26 writers respond to 26 treasures in 4 museums, using only 62 words

The Gough Looking-Glass

The notes suggest it’s all about this frame;
Plague, Restoration, London frosts or flame,
gesso, paint, glaze, specks of gilt and varnish,
silver leaf that turns each day to tarnish.

I think within is where the spirit dwells.
Whose face dipped in this pool to glimpse herself?
What shadow slipped through that straight gate as cloud?
Memento mori, hour glass, Turin shroud.

Writer Maura Dooley,
Treasure Mirror,

Look again. Inside my whirligig wallplates
& once-jewelled roof I hold proof of
Heaven. Aye: to your eye bone-chips &
toenails, greasy hair-twists, shrivelled skin.
But God sees what we cannot: seeds of
transcendence. We will arise, as these Saints
have risen, transfigured, imperishable as
flesh is perishable. I promise you: Believe in
me, and though y’are dead, yet shall ye live!

Writer Lucy Caldwell
Treasure The Clonmore Shrine, Ulster Museum


I will ask again. Ladies, were you happy?
Stitching afternoons to evenings, evenings to mornings,
thoughts coming undone while you kept hands busy.

I will ask again. Ladies, were you happy?
Your mothers, then yourselves, then your daughters, lonely,
lonely in the jostling shadows two candles bring.

I will ask again. Ladies, were you happy
stitching afternoons to evenings, evenings to mornings?

Writer Laura Forman
Treasure Girandole/ Wall light, V&A Museum

Scotland Cheers

with beers
whisky water

absent friends
and new

forming our
own shared

minding all
that went

healing heroes
and hidden

spirited leaders
believers and

wilderness our
seas our

forest floor
to mountain

the sense
of coming

your team
you and

with pipes
and with

the art of

Writer Elspeth Murray
Treasure Bute Mazar (communal drinking vessel), National Museum of Scotland

Following Which Messrs. Evans, Jones and Davies
Sacked the Agency and Later Went Into Liquidation

Aber & Treg – for when your sheep comes in.

Safely graze – because things aren’t always black and white.

Get the daggy habit.

Mint source!

Shear ewesury.

The ultimate droving experience.

Who puts the ram in your ram-a-lamb-a chink-chink?

Take a gambol!

The bank that likes to say flock.

Tup quality from your local baa.

Sheep like Dolly like lolly.

Folding. We are.

Writer Lin Sagovsky
Treasure Old Welsh banknotes, National Library of Wales

Translation into Welsh Hywel Meilyr Griffiths

Yn Dilyn Hyn Saciodd Messrs. Evans, Jones a Davies
yr Asiantaeth cyn Mynd yn Fethdalwyr eu Hunain

Aber & Treg – yn corlannu’r praidd.

Banc Alun Mamon – i’r bugail newydd.

Hel a didol yn deidi.

Cneifio’r costau.

Banc yr Hwrdd - arian i’r meheryn!

Yswiriant - rhag y ddafad golledig.

Prancio wrth fancio.

Yn brefu o brofiad.

Wyt ti’n arbed arian? Oen i!

Peidiwch bod yn ddafad ddu.

Banc y Famog, - lleol i’w chnu.

Aeth yr hwch drwy’r siop.

Winner of the Bardic Staff at Eisteddfod 2011

Hewn with axes, bludgeoned without thought ?
an angry ton of drunken stone lurching into 
history. This rock, this hard fought place, with ?
no between, fit for The O’Neill who knew his 
reign was fleeting. No easy seat, no lounging ?
here with goblets of blood wine late into 
the night. This cold Tyrone throne, made for ?
men on the edge, ready for flight.

Owen O’Neill

The O’Neill Chair, Ulster Museum

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