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Great People of the Irish Famine


At first you made blood cakes by bleeding calves,

Gobbled berries, nettles, then the family dog.


Sometimes the cleverer dogs

Were seen eating bodies in the fields.


Infants gnawed at dry breasts;

To Thee do we cry poor famished children of Eve


And the politicians mocked,

Let the detongued speak.


But no words came – just a watery mess

Around mouths green from the bile and the seaweed,


To be carried out in a coffin,

Like the old wooden pencil cases we used in school


With the sliding lid, only upside down,

And your pencil thin bodies were thrown into a common grave


Now I pencil you in

Great people of the Irish Famine.

Highly Commended and Published in ‘Vision On’ Anthology – Ver Poets.  Judge Katherine Pierpoint 2005

The Going Nowhere Road….


There is a road that leads to nowhere

Nobody knows where it goes

But the west of Ireland people

Call it the Famine Road


I dreamt of a green-eyed woman

Burnished hair, green shawl

She glared at me accusingly

Her palm outstretched


At first I thought she meant money

So I handed her my purse

She thrust it in the air

And spat an ancient curse


What good are your coins to us

On this going nowhere road

Too late for your charity money

What I want from you is a poem


Write about my eyes

The same shape and colour as yours

Write of my fleshless bones

And my bloodless heart


Tell them you saw my ghost

Among thousands of swarming souls

Wandering into the mist

On the Going Nowhere Road

Twin Trails of Tears


Pipe tomahawks swinging from their wagons

They set out

Barefoot or in moccasins

Dignity in weathered faces

Hair black and strong

Plaited or hanging loosely

Wearing buckskin dresses or leggings

Plaid blankets wrapped around shoulders


Choctaw must follow the Trail of Tears

Says the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek

Clutching a ten-dollar bill and a rifle each

They steer towards their future

But the rains come and the blizzard stings and

The Arkansas River and people freeze up

Or die of pneumonia


Sixteen years on in Louisburgh Mayo, Ireland, 1847.

The starving beg help from an Officer

Apply to the Board of Guardians – they meet at Delphi Lodge tomorrow

So they sleep under the stars until dawn when

Ragged and barefoot they walk fifteen miles to that place

But the Board are at lunch and are not to be disturbed

At last the meeting is held

But they are offered no help

Many die on the return journey

It’s not the potato but a pearl of great price that’s dug up in their field

When the surviving Choctaw hear of their plight

And collect seven hundred and ten dollars for the deserving Irish

Poem, ‘Twin Tales of Tears’ was published in anthology, ‘On The Road’, Volume 2, compiled by Robin Barratt, 2020.

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