The Irish in America


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DAY 16: Favorite Irish Poem

Famine Memorial - Picture of The Famine Sculpture, Dublin

This photo of The Famine Sculpture – Dublin is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Odds are I will have a new one before the month is out, but right now my favorite poem is “The Emigrant Irish” by Dublin-born Eavan Boland. The poem appears in An Origin Like Water, Collected Poems 1957-1987.

Like oil lamps, we put them out back —

of our houses, of our minds. We had lights
better than, newer than and then

a time came, this time and now
we need them. Their dread, makeshift example:

they would have thrived on our necessities.
What they survived we could not even live.
By their lights now it is time to
imagine how they stood there, what they stood with,
that their possessions may become our power:

Cardboard. Iron. Their hardships parceled in them.
Patience. Fortitude. Long-suffering
in the bruise-colored dusk of the New World.

And all the old songs. And nothing to lose.