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John Knoepfle's Poetry

skibbereen the famine pit

it was only that the poor
were driven to the margins
they were the throwaway people
their little farms
their fields of rock in cork and wexford
even less in the townlands


there were caricatures in punch
where have these gone
I could not find them in ireland
nation of twenty year olds
shouting like animals
from the book of kells
when night softens the old streets
dingle or limerick or dublin


everything is completed now
gone back to pasture
all the potatoes shipped in from holland
someone has shut the evil eye
where the famine pits
reach to the bottom of the world


a broad green field here
where my sons could play soccer
and ten thousand
tumbled in one grave here
so many nameless bones


brickley is here surely
and finn and mccarthy
harrington and driscoll
god keep you from hunger
my great great uncles lost here
my keening aunts my cousins


it is the way it is
you were the lesser harvest
once the potato failed
the bloodless sacrifice
when the unexpected bad time came
wrong time famine time


champion and black skerry
those were your favorites
they had the deep eyes