Poems and Poetry

family history poems

Summer 1953 | A Poem by Roy Pullam

His was a cabin
On Barker Hill
The view
Across the meadow
A haven
In the summertime
I loved to draw
Water from his well
The sweet taste natural
Just pure and cold
Evenings the kerosene lamps
Made shadows
On the wall
Dancing flames
Pranced across the wick
The different colors
I would stare
At the pinpoints
Of light
In the semi-illuminate room
My cousins
Would sleep
On the feather bed
While I played grown up
Trying to understand
Adult conversations
Uncle Ed and my dad
Would talk old times
Sharing stories
Of their hijinks
With characters
I didn’t know
But both
Breathed life
In their corpses
Bringing them alive
For me
I would fight sleep
But eventually
It would take me
With the last
Of their talk
Slowly dripping
Into my ears
The smooth yarn
Dropping as gentle
As a feather

In a Liminal Space | A Poem by Marie MacSweeney

Born during the famine
my seawoman ancestor set out regularly
into the Atlantic, southwards
and eastwards, towards Bristol,
trading metal and grain.

Though she lies quiet now
in the tomb at Ráth
my mind carries her about,
delicately as a caul,
sets her free on the high seas.

I am there too, at the binnacle,
manning the compass,
plotting our course westwards.
The name of our journey is mingling, or
daring, or dwelling with the things she loved.

In the sea there is no place
that is not her place.
Each journey is an alert
She respects the ocean’s stillness,
knows its savagery.

As waters rock beneath us
I nudge through her reticence,
amid flicker of whale pulse
and dolphin plunge, touch her heart,
sky sidling away in the wind,

and the notion I share with Kate, that this was our
first home,
that we crawled from its wet turbulence
aeons ago, limped across shores,

loved land later, with its trees and sighs.

Clothesline | A Poem by Camille Clark

Grandmother took all
our history, relics, first
kisses, moments beautiful,
hours tragic, and hung them
on the line in her last
late in life fit of madness.
So now we have to hide
them quickly from our
prying neighbors, or else
explain decades of skeletons
dancing in our closet.