An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger)
1845 - 1852
Ireland. The aching. Stomach tight, skin taut, stretched across poking ribs.
Mo dhia, prataí ar maidin agus prataí ar nóin mar a duirt an file -My God, potatoes in the morning and potatoes in the evening, - as the poet said -
A hot clammy Summer. Potatoes! Lifegiver! dragged from the earth with fevered hands,
dirt scared nails, scratching, digging the mulched black thing, cloying to the touch, from the earth. A fouled death stench, from what had been a potato.
A sábhála Dia orainn! - God save us! - Níl aon rud eile againn! - We have nothing else!
The Land bereft of it's nourishing harvest; potatoes. Even along the coast, the boats are no more, in the cities if you have the money for the inflated prices at the food markets, and islands where there is fish, there is some salvation, if you have the strength and skill to catch them. If you have a currach to set sail to find them, or the ragged groups of women and girls,
chipping reluctant shellfish from the sea drenched rocks,
or, eating raw seaweed to ease the knawing need, their guant frames poisoned,
leading to the agony of death without hope. Cad a Déanfaimid anois? - What will we do now?
The cravings, walking barefoot, to the Landlord's House, the smell of cooking from his kitchen. Turned away by his bailiffs with masks about their faces, to hide the stench of human despair.
Food. Scenting like hunting dogs, the imagined taste on the air, like ragged unseeing things,
they stagger across moor and heath. The mountain wind, cutting through to the bone,
the chill of streams crossed numbing their bloodied bare feet,
staring unseeing, with grass-juiced mouths, the final act of despair and madness,
dripping from slack jawed lips.
Dying in heaving gasps, amidst a mountained landscape,
falling to emerald beauty to the quiet of field and valley.
The last sight and sound they see, lying face up, in a ditch, or on the side of the road, watching with the indifference of the dying, the slow moving gunmetal clouds pasted across a cold sky, reflected in their eyes.
A raven hovering, feathering a winged beat
for the approach of endless night. A lonely cry on the air, notes their passing.
A lonely place to die, by the roadside, a light breeze, bending blade of grass and petalled flower, fingers clawing the earth in a final rigor of agony,
before blessed death takes them.
An Gorta Mór: 1845-1850
Click on the file to listen to Tony read the poem:
Tony Treanor is an Irishman living in Limerick on the Mid-West coast of Ireland. He has enjoyed writing and reading poetry all his life.
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