Approaching Dublin — Coming Home

 

I

The first smudge of low hills revealed themselves.
We approached across a calm and sunlit sea.
A few islands. Then an old tower. Then a lighthouse.
Then we arrived – to a safe harbor.

We came to Dublin and Ireland by sea — on purpose.
That is the way my people left — by sea. A few at a time.
That was the way the Vikings and the Celts first saw it.
That was my Irish ancestors last glimpse of home.

I was thinking about them as I retraced their steps.
My first visit – I did not expect it to feel like a returning.
As soon as I saw it, it seemed like coming home.
The passage was easy, and the place seemed familiar.

There were no gruff queries of “Who are you” and
“What are you doing here”. Just a spoken welcome.
I’m used to crossing borders – it isn’t always easy.
This was a different experience: Of course, you’re here.

II

I’m a good part Irish. Not necessarily “the” good part
if you knew the whole story. My people survived the
potato famine and left for America to find tenements
and tuberculosis and staggering infant mortality.

The parents left grown children behind and never returned.
They were from Kerry, the “Wild West”, and dubbed illiterate,
at least in English. They knew the old language, old ways.
They knew old superstitions. I still never put shoes on a table.

The Irish remember. They know grudges and stories.
The so-called “Luck of the Irish” is a fiendish old lie.
Only a few of my folks lived to put down new roots.
In a clutch of ten kids only three ever really made it.

III

The curious locals asked, “Where are you from?” We’re obviously
Americans so they meant in Ireland. Are they waiting for someone?
We said Kerry and there was always a response. “Ah…you are in for it”.
We wondered: was that good or bad? We pressed on.

Our own history and locations are murky. We knew Tralee
and we knew about Scartaglen and suspected Dingle and
Ballyferriter. All were beautiful places, even in the rain.
The people were friendly, but the weather was not.

An Atlantic storm was thrashing the coast. Wind and fog.
They said, “You surely didn’t come here for the weather”.
The wind nearly blew us away and the waves were crashing.
We are desert dwellers. We know wind but not like this.

IV

The pandemic arrived in Dublin one day before we did.
It chased us across Ireland. We bumped elbows in Galway.
The schools all closed, and the hospital numbers added up.
We stayed a week in a cottage in Ballyferriter, waiting.

The weather improved every day. We roamed the headlands.
We visited a couple Dingle pubs and restaurants before they
all closed. We burned peat in the stove to keep warm.
Moving on, Cork City was shut tight – no St. Patrick’s Day.

We attended the last mass at a large church in Cork City.
The priest dragged it out long for the few worshipers there.
Dublin, in shock, was mostly locked up when we returned.
Our hotel closed, and they moved us to a different place.

The news from America was not good and hard to believe.
Things were getting out of hand, but we had to go home.
A few asked us to stay – like that was an option. So tempting.
Approaching was easy but leaving Dublin was hard.

The Irish might wander but never forget and are never forgotten.

–/.\–

 

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