Caroline Johnstone – 1771 – The American Wake

Caroline Johnstone writes mainly on philosophical, political and life experience themes. She was shortlisted for Tales in the Forest and is to be published in the Snapdragon Journal. She blogs for Positively Scottish, helps the Women Aloud NI with social media and is a member of the Federation of Writers (Scotland).


1771 – The American Wake

My firstborn child declared his independence,
Said he would choose to live, not die, by drought that stalked us all,
Or drown by workhouse shame.

The death knell rang. America had called, cried freedom, hope.
He left our land, was pushed by fear, by poverty that gnawed his soul,
And pulled by hope, and images of greener lands than these.

While on the hill, the landlord nodded, raised the rents
And watched our young ones leave for ever, while theirs stayed safe and full
Behind closed doors in yon big houses.

The winds of fear and loss drowned out the tears we cried at wakes,
Where we drank health and wealth to you, drank in your face;
No graves to visit; still, the keening echoes in my ears.

That final day; that darkest morning, as you had hope held high in rags,
We walked with friends who carried heavy sighs, as I would carry now
Two worlds on shoulders, and lead in my heart.

You walked the gangplank, bravely bridged the old and new,
Stood tall and waved, your long farewell that carried over waves,
And left me, as birds forsake their nest, on empty shores, bereft.

 

 

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