PHANTOM FOOTSTEPS

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Maureen K Clifford
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Location: Ipswich - Paul Pisasale country and home of the Ipswich Poetry Feast
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PHANTOM FOOTSTEPS

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:46 pm

PHANTOM FOOTSTEPS …. Maureen Clifford © #TheScribblyBarkPoet

His family came from Ireland – their lives with troubles were fraught
and the long potato famine was the end
It took their friends and family – two daughters and a son
they were tough but at the last they could not bend.
Their stone cottage demolished by a landlord hard and cruel
and nothing in the paddocks to make even thinnest gruel
and their last chicken was eaten , ‘twas the last few days of yule
it was cold and there was snow but not a stable.

The glory days were gone now though they never had been rich
but their children went to school and were well fed
They’d two horses housed in a barn, a jaunting cart as well
and bicycles for Tom and Sam and Fred.
But fate turned against Ireland and bought the populace low
‘twas only English landlords who were immune to the blow
of failed crops, and harsh weather and no other place to go.
All sold, and pawned and ate their prized possessions.

The parish priest gave what he could – they sold their worldly goods
and gathered scant possessions in a swag.
A quilt hand stitched by mother from worn rags that had been clothes
to poor were they to even own a bag.
Their feet in rags were swaddled as they headed on their way
the bitter cold and frost and sleet saw more die every day
as to the coast they headed with their hopes in disarray -
but the picture in their mind was of Australia.

***

Five generations on the family lived down near the Quay
their cottage built of stone was aged and worn
but sturdy and still standing – it was built in convict times
by men of Irish descent – shackled, shorn.
Back then the harbour waters were busy with skiff and sail
with tall ships moored along the shores and men marked by the flail
from nations all across the world - today not all were pale
the harbour still a melting pot of nations.

He learnt to sail the harbour’s waves in a small dinghy red;
could read the wind – anticipate the puff.
He progressed onto river boats and got his masters ticket
and became a ferry captain, tanned and tough.
But always in his soul he heard the song Ireland was singing,
she called to him at night in dreams, dim memories were clinging.
He heard her call and heeded and soon his long strides were swinging
‘cross the Irish hills of Knocknashee near Sligo.

He took a pot of Irish soil to bring back to Australia
and left a pot of Aussie soil behind.
He placed flowers on the hearth of the old black and ruined cottage
its glassless windows in stone walls now blind.
Hoisted his swag and headed out along the narrow rutted track
his past behind him with old dreams and one small stone built shack.
His mind heard Kookaburras laughter, loud, calling him back
He was heading home for Christmas in Australia

She was decked in yellow wattle blossom and red bottlebrush
and the lorikeets wore their Christmas regalia.
Check out The Scribbly Bark Poets blog site here -
http://scribblybarkpoetry.blogspot.com.au/


I may not always succeed in making a difference, but I will go to my grave knowing I at least tried.

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Shelley
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Re: PHANTOM FOOTSTEPS

Post by Shelley » Fri Nov 29, 2019 6:00 pm

So many stories of the potato famine, Maureen. When we walked the banks of the Liffey in Dublin and saw those tragic and poignant sculptures of the famine people, I couldn't hold back the tears.

My father's paternal family came from Northern Ireland and emigrated later than the famine years, but there is always the old, "there but for the grace of God go I" lurking in the background.

On a more positive note we also had the chance to tour the reconstructed replica of the ship "Jeannie Johnston" which took numerous loads of emigrants to America without a single loss of life - due to the forward-thinking hygiene standards of the captain and ship doctor. So there were some happy endings.

Cheers
Shelley
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines
http://www.shelleyhansen.com

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

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Maureen K Clifford
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Location: Ipswich - Paul Pisasale country and home of the Ipswich Poetry Feast
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Re: PHANTOM FOOTSTEPS

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Wed Dec 04, 2019 10:22 am

Well you know how I love weaving a little bit of history into my work Shelley. I am currently reading The Whitest Flower by Brendan Graham - the flower of course relates to the flower of the potato vine and the story is set during the potato famines in Ireland. One of those books that are hard to put down - I find myself reading it until 2 am most nights

I actually wrote the poem a long time before reading the book but I am interested to see how close to the mark I was with it. The famine statues are a very poignant reminder indeed and of course the dog touched my heart - the lovely loyal lurcher, who of course got left behind to die
Check out The Scribbly Bark Poets blog site here -
http://scribblybarkpoetry.blogspot.com.au/


I may not always succeed in making a difference, but I will go to my grave knowing I at least tried.

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