In summer the cattle graze the high patches made rich on limestone
leaching into thin topsoil, rain generally arriving or about to arrive.
In winter they shelter in the lower fields, upper and lower segmented by vast
acres of bald grey stone paving hills and running to the turloughs and the shore.
Loose rocks common, we struggle to follow the young farmer’s pace to the top.
His voice elevates over wind, naming plants, telling the stories of his family’s land.
A Famine wall shoots a straight useless line across the highest slope over a bed
of bare slab, the end burrowing into mist. I am the only one to see their eyes.
Who will be fed? Who is deserving? Who has earned the soup? Who has got
the passage, and who is lifting stones in fever? Who is buried on the Atlantic
on their way to Gross Isle? Which ancestor pays for a ranch on the bitter
Montana prairie, his dollars bought with bones? The best are never survivors.
We pick our way down, knees straining, making note of wild thyme, oxeye daisy,
rockrose, heather, and gorse, with the bloody cranesbill blanketing all open ground
(Published in The Geese at the Gates. By Drucilla Wall. Salmon Poetry 2011: https://www.salmonpoetry.com/details.php?ID=220&a=192)