Addicted to geneological research I went with my husband to Europe for their Summer 2010 forming this poem after visits to cemeteries where ancestors were buried.
Hardly enough to live on,
Nothing left to rot with;
No sword or jewel of infinite
Value – our commoners of
England, Ireland, Scotland,
Are one of many paupers after
Another; piled in layers
Of dirt, after a shitty life.
Nearby, deliveries came in a black glass
Carriage, emptied and covered, a standing
Stone Mason has inscribed the name of a
Citizen who lived once beneath the stars,
Under the influence of a Celtic Cross;
Intricate, masterfully chiselled and
Paid for with a tidy sum before
Meeting their Maker.
Ornate marble tablets quarried
From the mountain tops proclaim
A devoted wife, husband, a child
Called to Heaven above the dismal clouds.
Will this class of ancestor be equal
In eternity with my own dear departed?
Unable to inherit success or rise above
Salvation came much
Later with the biological sciences.
Within the subsidised grassy spaces
Layers of my blood and bone
Peasants, Nailers, Miners of coal
And limestone, brickies labourers,
Even British Imperial soldiers…
Occupy my thoughts.
Generally illiterate, sometimes called
Wives were burdened and bloody
Infected by birthing, dirt and soldiers
Syphillis and beatings with booze;
Left behind Wards of State and
Church ‘bastards’, survived to earn
A crust, however they could.
I have no fantastic psychic impressions
Of past lives as a Klimt-like Austrian
Princess or Harem dancer as a Medium
My inner Shaman is un-spooked treading
By Regency damp and mossy tombs in
Gothic Romanticism, searching for
Surnames in vain.
Having acquired the generational
Narrative which casts my proletariat
I create a cast of characters to a virtual
fate; in blogs and bricks of words –
This family’s black sheep grazing around
Their burial plots.
Irish republicans and suffragettes are
Remembered at Glasnevin
For heroism in the fight for democratic
Secularity, and though the parades
Long gone, further afield from the
Dead and buried slum dwellers –
Chief Daniel O’Connell and the
Executed Independence martyrs still
Attract sorrow and gratitude graveside.
Free from the mad and mean world, the
Collective of Celtic kin under the grass
Are strangers, political and spiritually
Yet I find comfort in thinking their
Last gasp or TB cough was
Finally liberated from death-bed agonies,
The verses rote learned in lines of Holy
Scriptures will sound like poetry, along
The kids playing outside.
The promise of an after-life free from
Bacterial battling, and oppression
In hovels of working-class containment
Or Asylum, is a blessed sigh of relief ,
Giving up the ghost in a society
Of sadness and shame.
Body snatchers sneaked over nameless
Dens, searching for valuable
Corpses; their human remains hidden,
No contribution to medical science.
My generation’s Scientists find markers,
Not by stone and marble to connect us,
But the trace of a Double Helix.
We join scholars to trace geneology
Before the days of St.Patrick and Bede
Self-learners on a sojourner’s stay in
Ui Niall’s territory – entering
Passage-ways and tombs to the
Underworld dug into the Hill of Tara.
Breaking bread beside the erect penis
Of Celtic destiny
Reflecting on our mothers and fathers,
Whose DNA travels with us and through
Into our off-spring, we silently breath
The sacred air; a brief resting
Spot on the planet.
The Cost of Living by Julie McNeill is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.