abandoned house on the edge of the sea
Your name came to you seaward
upon a ship returning home from Boston
where your mother never settled.
All those brownstone houses starving out the sky,
streets paved with streets, no gold
of whin, or corn at saving, or celandine.
Against the tide she bought a passage
on a ship still marked with famine, typhus
back to places that she hungered for,
kept hidden in her shawl your dead sister
until they docked in Cobh and buried her.
Before the year was out
her name was put to use again.
You carried the weight of that ship on your back
the cold backwash of her eyes,
the way the streets of Holyhoke
seeped into your tight mouth
the sea streeled out from your hair.
you heard the cry of her along the lazy beds
as you barrowed swill to the pigs
caught her on the wing of salt air, your body listing.
Kept hidden in your shawl
a woman longing
to fall upon the wither of that name.
each letter blighted one by one
the sea to open up and swallow them
to stand at its edge and howl.
by Geraldine Mills
from "Toil the Dark Harvest"