'Would You Ever Think of Coming Home?'

I am surely not the first Irish emigrant to have heard these words from their heartbroken mother. Guilt at the impact of my decision to leave Ireland and grief at the loss of my beloved mother are central themes in my poetry collection "where the lost things go," just published by Salmon Poetry.

As a child growing up in a small village in County Clare "on the wave-washed edge of the world," I was not brought up by one or two people, but by the many hands of a community. Every bump in the path had its history and its meaning.

Having emigrated to Australia 24 years ago, I have noted on my annual visits home the erosion of time on the many haunts of my growing up years -- faces, places and traditions slowly slipping away. In "where the lost things go," I have tried to preserve some of these special aspects of the Ireland I grew up in, a place where ...

Mist rolls off moss-green hills

Where wind-wild ponies thunder

Manes flying as they chase

Their seaward brothers

The following poem, extracted from the book, was first published in The Irish Times last year, resulting in a furore of social media commentary. In it, I acknowledged my guilt and grief, while honouring the memory of my beloved lost mother. I was astonished and moved by the number of people who went out of their way after it was published to share with me their own personal stories. I hope The Wild Geese community will connect with it too...

In memoriam II: The draper*

“The town is dead

Nothing but the wind

Howling down Main Street

And a calf bawling

Outside The Fiddlers

 

My mother’s words, not mine

In a letter, kept in a drawer

These long years

She had a way with words

My mother

 

That’s why they came

The faithful of her following

Leaning in to her over the counter

For an encouraging word

Or the promise of a novena

 

Long before we had

Local radio

Our town had my mother

Harbinger of the death notices

And the funeral arrangements

 

Bestower of colloquial wisdom

Bearer of news on all things

Great and small

Who was home

And who hadn’t come

 

Who had got the Civil Service job

And by what bit of pull

The Councillor’s niece

Smug in her new navy suit

Oblivious to the circulating countersuit

 

“Would you ever think of coming home?”

Her words would catch me

Unawares

Lips poised at the edge

Of a steaming mug

 

Igniting a spitfire

Of resentment each time

Then draping me for days

I’d wear it like a horsehair shirt

All the way back

 

Until the sunshine and the hustle

Had worn it threadbare

This extra bit of baggage

In every emigrant’s case

Their mother’s broken heart

 

I never thought to ask her

“Would you want me to…?

So I could look out at the rain

Circumnavigating the empty street

And shiver at the wind

Whipping in under the door…?”

 

I don’t miss that question now

On my annual pilgrimage ‘home’

My father never asks it

Like me, I know he feels it

Hanging in the air

Alongside her absence

 

I miss my mother

And her way with words

To read more poems from Anne's new collection, go to: "where the lost things go" on salmonpoetry.com

You can also listen to an interview with Anne on Clare FM or read a story about her new book in The Clare Champion.

Views: 359

Tags: Arts, Atlantic, Australia, Book, Clare, Diaspora History, Grief, Guilt, Heritage, Ireland, More…Literature, Living History, Loss, Mother, News, Poem, Poetry, Reading, West, Women


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Comment by Joe Gannon on July 25, 2017 at 11:25am

Thanks for posting this, Anne. You relating your story of the pain of emigration put me in mind of the scene in the movie "Brooklyn," when Saoirse Ronan's character, Eilis, tells her mother she was married while she was in the US and is leaving Ireland again after having returned home for a time. I'm sure if you saw the movie the scene resonated with you. My wife and I have been visiting Ireland every year for 10 years now and we feel so at home there that it gives us some insight into the emotions one would feel leaving it having grown up there. Emigration has been the part of the story of the Irish for so long that I think it's written into Irish DNA.

Comment by Anne Casey on July 25, 2017 at 9:03pm

Hi Joe, Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment - really appreciate it. No doubt about it, emigration is part of our DNA, not to mention the sadness and guilt that go with it! But I've also found that emigration has sharpened my appreciation for family and the beauty of Ireland. Delighted to hear you are a regular visitor to the Emerald Isle. It has a way of seeping into your heart!

Comment by Honora Wright Weaver on July 27, 2017 at 7:39pm
In the early 90's a friend of mine from Dublin, who had immigrated to America to become a US Marine, told me "Ireland's greatest export has always been her people". I'm looking forward to reading more of your poetry.
Comment by Anne Casey on July 27, 2017 at 9:21pm
Thank you so much Honora. You can view more poems here whenever you like: http://anne-casey.com/poetry.html Very much appreciate your taking the time to read and respond to my post.
Comment by Robert Emmett Maguire on July 30, 2017 at 3:36pm

Many years ago, I had an epiphany about the pain of missing home, a lesson inadvertently taught to me by my Leitrim born and raised father.

Having nothing in Ireland, but the prospect of building roads that led nowhere, he moved to America in 1926. It wasn't until almost 20 years later, at the end of World War Two, that he got the chance to see home again.

He was given a 10 day pass from his Army unit in Italy to go to Ireland. One of the most enduring stories I have of him, related to me by my uncle, was his arrival at the family's homeplace. Seeing his crying mother, he exclamed, "Make up your mind, Mam! You're crying when I leave and crying when I come home!"

For those few days, he walked the hills and fields around his town of Newtowngore, visiting everyone he could.

Then he had to leave. The bitter part of it all was that when he got back to his unit, his idiot of a commanding officer told him that he could have stayed longer.

He never saw Ireland again. He became ill with emphysema and his doctor told him he could not travel to Ireland because the weather would kill him. He had always dreamed of going home with my Mayo born mother, but that's the way.

He did "see" Ireland one more time. When I was living in Europe, I had the chance to visit my family for a month in Ireland. The rest of my year I was in Spain.

When I arrived home in NY, the first words out of my father Patrick's mouth were "So, you were in Spain for a year...tell me about Ireland." Exactly like that.

And that's what we did for hours and hours. About the town, the county, his family, his friends. I got to "bring him home" for at least a little while. It was probably the closest we'd ever been and I finally realize the sacrifice he had made leaving his country of birth for a better life in America.

Comment by Anne Casey on July 30, 2017 at 3:43pm
Thank you so much for sharing your lovely story about your Dad Robert - very moving and definitely familiar to me in essence. Every good wish, Anne

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