Journey into Your Third Century
Tom Sheehan
Tapas Winner
           (For Grandfather Johnny Igoe,1852-1945, from Elphin, Roscommon)     

You’re seventy-one years underground, voice hanging treble's pitch, like Yeats on record talking of Inishfree, old marble heads. The poems (liquid, turf-cut, spaded, black-buttered with promise, besieged, sent on Ireland’s black ships), are alive as you, freed from dread crossings, fed to Atlantic's fish or buried in the new land, escape complete from turnips, potatoes, drought.  

Hunger there's hungered here, past recognition. I’ve lost you many times, into bare consciousness of odd days, phenomenon of your voyage.   

Alone, family-sanctioned as its first Irish sailor, cast out by rude vegetables, you  pained at the coming, scout leading horde's hint of danger, sank a pick in hardpan, poured your brow into red neckerchiefs, built railroads, canals, someone’s Manhattan empire, gave nine children life. I’ve walked the ground you walked, found dreams brick-hard at intersections, side roads, left you marginally, my own feet tinkered.  

Still, constant pressure’s known, names falling at night, children of the droughty land, here where things seem realized, at eyes, by heart, by hands whose fingers play infernal new machines. I'm sixteen years into your third century, throbbed in your old cottage, knew knots rooting underground, trebled my voice calling morning for answers.   

Peat, piled behind the house, ingots of new tenant’s digging, kept the kettle at soft steam on an old green stove you left behind. In the corner where you slept before your journey, a small star bores through thatched roof, calls out your name.

First published: August 2016
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