The road between schools

Famine memorial
The memorial to the people of the Drimoleague area who died in the Great Hunger is on the edge of the old cemetery and across the road from the primary school.

It’s a short piece of road full of pictures.

I can’t travel it without recalling the masterly strokes of the school

on my boyhood imagination.

The road winds its way from the village to the rock

where the holy year cross awaits its annual lighting.

The school where I introduced white chalk to black slate

and they were introduced to me

lies on its edge, overlooking what the master called “sleepy valley”.

Fancy stone work opposite marks a spot of bleak recollections.

A famine grave on the edge of the old graveyard.

Hearts wanted the place to be marked.

Yet no names are recalled or written.

Acknowledgement and anonymity

vie with each other for appropriateness.

Most of the old graveyard is overgrown

with luscious grass and weeds which even on a summer’s day

wet the shoes of the one who plods through it.

But the engraved picture chiseled in my mind is of fragile frames

of famined neighbours dying outside its ditches

with grass in their mouths.

Their last faint pumping of the heart

toward a place of hope-filled Christian burial.

The fear of death’s sting would be laid out

to be soothed by heaven’s shroud.