Faith, I did what they asked of me
Ran the rack through my white hair
Put on new apron over long black skirts,
Hung around my neck the miraculous medal
Bought at the mission in Charlestown,
Sat outside on the kitchen chair
In front of the gate and the thorn tree
And stared till the camera clicked.
Copies of the photo, they told me,
Will be airmailed to Yonkers and Hackensack
Shown to children not seen for years
Grandchildren never glimpsed.
Will they stand on foreign dressers
Proud tokens of Irish origin
Or be hidden, disgraceful reminders
Of ancestral hardship and hunger?
I neither know nor care.
Let them be sent in silence
Depending on faith and hope
As I sent the children I reared.
I have survived my future -
Hungry Mayo of the eighties
Rotting praties and thatch
Widowhood and homelessness.
My only dread was the paupers’ plot
So I saved in my green post-
To pay for a decent funeral.
When I finally died in sixty four
I left enough for an oak coffin
And a wake with snuff and tobacco,
Whiskey and porter for friends
And neighbours to remember me by.
Years later, opening for a grandson,
The gravediggers struck solid wood.
Published in Murmurs, the Meath/Cavan LitLab broadsheet 2008.