to my parish,
over the five fairy forts,
climb church stiles
that once led believers to Mass.
Four paths, through fields
to the 17th century church,
hidden amongst overgrowth,
bramble, briar, whitethorn, and clump.
Only faint outlines of stone, hidden in ruin:
Speaking in silence, walls tell
our history, famine, eviction,
This parochial fold lived dutifully
despite hard times. Entombed
in sacred grass, they will us to learn
their lost history, complete the work,
theirs and ours.
I imagine turf fires, safety from the cold
of fear and pillage,
of survival and defence.
I walk through what was once barren,
now fertile fields,
call, invoke the names: Chapel field,
Back field, Race field.
Then on, to the road my forefathers
trod to the old school –
the only heat, sods carried each day.
Past the red pump,
once important, decorative now.
I see the clods and marks of cottages
that once housed people I knew.
They have left, the storytellers, all dead.
I call out again to the people
I knew: Raferty, Flanagan
O’Keefe, Hussey, Whynne, Melody...
We walk home from the fields,
our young backs arched, aching,
from spreading slits.
Row after row
we lean over these same furrows,
picking ripe potatoes.
Tired bodies pacing home
in evening sun,
crimson growing beyond our hill,
little said, unable to say
the unspeakable, mindful,
waiting for rest.
Rolling limestone walls,
insular, hold a fantasy,
a world outside
our carpet of green fields.
in the disipline of work.
With tasks well done,
we believe in a greater life.
Longing connects us to fields
beyond our world.
We will grow into what we leave.
Almost home, our tea is waiting.
Attracta Fahy’s collection Dinner in the Fields won the Irish Times Award. She grew up on a farm and now lives in Galway.