June 19, 2014

For the Lost Children. ~ Katherine Hamilton {Poem}

Janos Csongor Kerekes

(The genesis of this poem was the recent Washington Post news article by Terrence McCoy regarding the skeletal remains of eight hundred children found at a home for unwed mothers in Ireland. I was so haunted by the description of this discovery that I was moved to write a memorial poem. When I wrote this, it was with the intent and hope to find a wider audience to honor the memory of these children and the pain of their mothers.)

No marker,

no grave,

just bones upon bones.

The clavicles, crumbling

fractured femurs,

so many silent skulls.

But once brave

was this dust in the darkness.


The tiny spines,

barely born or malformed,

the lucky ones

who died before

they could know

who they were not,

where they could never go.


And others, whose mothers

tried, but in the end

had no recourse,

left them, their bones to bleach

in the carrion care

of meager hearts.


Perhaps they lived to toddle

on bowed and stunted legs;

felt sun, smelled grass,

some small morsel of life allowed

before they too

were tossed into that pile,

lost to the limestone.


The hardiest lived longer still,

sent to school in orphan’s rags, marginalized.

Ostracized, their tired, but not yet

vacant eyes, searching,

until fever or seizure or plague

allowed the soul to shed the bones and skin.


But someone

gazed into that face,

threw the child

into that place

a cistern, stinking

of feces and moldering flesh,

where no bell tolled.


Were no words spoken?

Did no one cry?

Was the poor mother there to say a silent goodbye

with ashen tongue,

long gone the days of keening?


While the teacher, the town,

the church, stood as stolid

as the castle looking down.

Mute, no care, nor testament given

to those born behind the wall

and dying, one by one, unknown.


Until now.

Mourn eight hundred faces

who knew little but the night.

Call out eight hundred names.

Maeve, Ryan, Molly, Aiden.

Create a columbarium,

in memory and heart.

Look unflinching at the carnage,

sing each child into the light.


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Photo: Janos Csongor Kerekes/Flickr Creative Commons


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