Spectres

The cold grey sea
Stirs sinuous weed,
Bladder wrack, dulse,
Kelp, carrageen.
Dancing shrouds
Ripple and weave
On the winnowing tide.

Grey water slips
Into gulleys.
Around black rocks
Swash and backwash
Channel and flow,
Shift drifting sand
Over stripped bones.

“O tiny child
What did you see
With your grey green eyes?
What did you see
In that far away time
In the green, green field
Where the hungry grass grows?

Where are the weak?
Do they lie under stones
In the field of death
Or by the roadside?
Nothing but bones.
You alone were
Picked to survive.”

This poem evolved during my research into family history in the late 1840s at the time of the Irish famine. The research raised questions concerning the choices faced by families. How was food shared within the family?

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9 Comments on “Spectres”

  1. CiaranODriscoll Says:

    Very moving poem, catches you by the throat in the end

  2. twilark Says:

    Thank you for reading the poem and for your comment. When I traced my family through the famine I became more aware of the realities of that time.

  3. Thomas Davis Says:

    Twilark, I am so glad to see a new poem. This is a powerful poem, too. It looks like it was based on your own family. The first two stanzas are magnificent lists, building an environment that is inviting, but with questions:
    Shift drifting sand
    Over stripped bones.
    Then the questions that almost stops your heart:
    “O tiny child
    What did you see
    With your grey green eyes?
    What did you see
    In that far away time
    In the green, green field
    Where the hungry grass grows?
    And then the haunting, haunting ending:
    Nothing but bones.
    You alone were
    Picked to survive.”
    I really want to encourage you to write more poems. You are really an effective poet.

  4. twilark Says:

    Thank you for reading Spectres Thomas and for your comments and encouragement. Yes my family was the starting point and that led me through the history of the Irish famine from different points of view. Who knows where poetry will lead us!

  5. gonecycling Says:

    You weave some beautiful language – ‘Bladder wrack, dulse,
    Kelp, carrigeen’ – to tell a very moving story here. I love it. N.

  6. Dovedale Says:

    Twilark,

    This poem is beautiful, powerful and evocative. It is also edgy and brilliantly haunting.

    To achieve all this you must have totally immersed yourself in, not just your family history but also in in the period of the Irish famine.

    I believe you must have studied this period of history. I also feel that you must be an extremely good writer and poet to make this all come alive – it is so immediate that I felt pain, saw the child and the hungry grass and wondered.

    Please write more more.

    Dovedale

    • twilark Says:

      Thank you Dovedale for reading Spectres. I really appreciate your comments.
      Yes, I’ve been tracing my family history for quite a while. When it led to the Irish famine I just had to read more about the events my family must have experienced and the poem followed after that.

  7. Jenny Glover Says:

    Like Thomas Davis, I too found this heartstopping. An entrancing poem that pools a watery enchantment around me in the sounds of those first stanzas. And oh, that child.


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