On the Famine Way and Phase Change

Two recently published poems today. The first one is part of a series exploring what it means for me to have returned to live in Ireland generations after my family left. The Famine Way is a long stretch of road leading from Strokestown in Roscommon (where my family came from) to Dublin. In the 1840s at the height of the famine, thousands of starving people walked six days along that route to reach Dublin in order to take ships to start new lives elsewhere. I am walking into the past to try and understand it, while the girl ghost (maybe an ancestor) is heading the other way.


My feet started aching just before dark

while evening flattened the shadows into blades

that stabbed the fading day in the back.

By the road lay a tiny pair of shoes;

old, dusty and worn. No one else was there,

so I went on towards the setting sun,

squinting in the glare of discovery,

till something made me turn around and see

a girl of eight or nine, thin and dressed in rags,

step into the shoes. She looked where I was headed ā€“

on to Abbeyshrule, Clondra and Strokestown ā€“

then walked the other way towards Longwood,

Maynooth, Dublin and the ocean called Hope,

leaving no trace, no name, no regrets.

Published in Allegro


Somehow I always know when it starts;

when the locusts have reached the point of swarming

and the desert breaks away to fly all night

desperately seeking the green it cannot see,

a book of a billion fluttering pages

carried on the wind, each square metre teeming

with thousands of voracious lives. I wait,

sweating in bed while the cloud rolls on

until the advance guard rains on the roof.

Tomorrow, the streets will be littered

with dry, rattling dead swept by the breeze

and a few solitary, calm survivors,

while I will be pale and exhausted,

waiting for the cycle to begin once more.

Published in Osmosis

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