The workhouse, with its cold grey walls,
Peering like a giant sentinel
Engulping male, female, young and old
Into its open claws of rough mortar
Enticing them, too weak to argue;
Their last resort to survive.
Destitute families, segregated,
By age and sex, mother from child,
Child from mother, wife from husband,
Husband from wife, sister from brother.
Thin, tired worn out people,
Those who could, employed for service,
Earning weekly, the menial sum of one and six
To barter for rations of yellow meal and broth,
Thin and tasteless,its salt content
Pierced parched lips, memories
of floury potatoes, now rotten neath
blight’s scourge and a foul Winter.
Creating and nurturing fever epidemics
which fattened roadside graves, nearby
Irish farmers slaved to fodder the pockets
Of absentee landlords, whose greed drove
Two million of our youngest and best
in coffin ships, not fit to transport
Bird, animal, not alone human.
Yet most survived to spread their seed
In Australia, new Zealand and fair U.S.A.,
Where today, they proclaim their pride
In Irish blood and Gaelic heritage.
Poverty to new life, island to vast continents
Despair to hope, fresh seed in new pastures

Copyright Máiréad Tuohy Duffy (C)2004