Sunday, 31 October 2010

Dead Men Talking - Magpie 38



1847
100,000 Irish sail to British North America
in a flotilla of coffin ships destined for Quebec.
One out of five die from disease and malnutrition.

1848-50
4000 young female orphans
from Irish workhouses are shipped to Australia
to meet a demand for domestic servants.
The girls frequently die in poverty

1868
The last convict ship lands at Fremantle
carrying the final 279 of 160 000 felons
transported from Britain over a period of 80 years.
40 000 Irish - many transported for political activity.

What terrible times
drove you to seek a new life
risking death and starvation.

What harsh political regimes
condemned you
to these desperate solutions

What environmental disasters
provoked this exodus
from your native lands.

A mere three or four generation past
yet we have lost contact -
your voices buried and silent.

Gravestones marked and unmarked
ravaged by storm and tempest and time
your stories broken and fragmented.

And now a generation too late
I'm listening for your voices
Your dialect carried on the winds
Tangled tales lost in overgrown fields

I am following the rivers to their source.
I meditate on your fate
I am a vessel waiting to resonate with the sound of your voice.

For more from the Magpie Tales diaspora of writers click here.

Post script.
1881
217 Italian migrants arrive in Sydney
100 less than had embarked on their ill-fated voyage
seeking a new life in the South Pacific.

The Irish and Italians of New South Wales intermarry
My heritage lies buried in the lush forests
and coastal sands of the Richmond River Valley.

7 comments:

The Whispering She-Oak said...

I like this.

I like the structure of the voices: the narrative of history, then the voices trying to find each other through time.

I like the structure of the lines of your ancestral record.

This voice is speaking through you.
It has much to say.
I look forward to listening.

Jingle said...

love this,

the last few lines are super profound.

willow said...

This made my Scots-Irish DNA tingle. I adore the line "your dilect carried on the winds". Nice piece, Steve.

Paul C said...

You bring to life the immigrant experience: of hopes, struggles, tragedies.

Marilyn said...

Such a wonderful post - of times so terrible that we can't even begin to imagine.
Here is a piece about one person who was transported:
http://mymagpiecollection.blogspot.com/2010/10/sepia-saturday-43.html

Reflections said...

Creative write, turning historical to a touching heartfelt poem. Nice.

Jinksy said...

I am following the rivers to their source.
I meditate on your fate
I am a vessel waiting to resonate with the sound of your voice

And so their story remains alive...