Ruined stone cottages lie dotted across the Irish landscape, permanent reminders of Ireland’s emigrants, forced to leave their homes by famine, and eviction. Over one million people left Ireland in the years of the Great Hunger from 1845 to 1850, and in the decades after many more followed.
Every time I see the old shell of a stone cottage I think of Ireland’s diaspora. In today’s post I thought I would share a poem I wrote dedicated to Ireland’s exiles, who made their new homes in America.
To Ireland’s Far-Flung Exiles
by Mairéad Geary
They left these shores carting their memories of Irish summers:
Nettles drooping under the weight of glittering raindrops,
Wild blackberries beckoning on thorny bushes;
Yellow furze, purple heather, the colors of rural childhoods;
Lingering twilights, soft rains, rugged cliffs with secret caves,
Unceasing waves, bronzed for hours by the rays of the setting sun.
On Ireland’s furrowed shores, I explore their untamed territory,
Discovering abandoned ruins, eerie memorials in barren fields;
Roofless shells with tumbling chimneys and spiritual hearths,
Systematically overgrown by nature’s wild abandon;
Eternal reminders of far-flung exiles, and their children’s children,
Dreaming of Ireland from some place far away.
I stand alone in green fields, gazing skyward at contrails
Pointing the way toward a western watery horizon.
My thoughts turn to refugees, viciously ousted,
Nothing but rags shrouding gaunt, emaciated bodies,
Silently trudging to port, in search of virulent vessels;
Some long forgotten, lost forever in their salty oblivion.
Through melancholy mists and harrowing storms, some survived
The wretchedness of ocean crossing and mountain crossing,
Only to be scattered like rain drops upon thousands of valleys,
Where they learned to hope anew, paying tribute to their homeland
In sweat and tears; toiling to the rhythm of their songs;
Whilst laying the foundations for the winding roads of your dreams.
And when those deep-seated recollections haunt you,
Echoing from the land where your forebears sleep
Beneath enduring lunar stones, listen to the bleak cry of time.
Come wade through rain-drenched grass, in praise of summer days.
Let Ireland’s gentle breezes polish your scars, and the light of home
Illuminate the ties that bind you to a new and ancient world.
To all those with Irish roots who will visit Ireland this summer, may you feel a warm welcome in your ancestral home. I wish you safe travels. May you feel a deep and meaningful connection to the land of our forefathers.
Slán agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom