WHISPERS FROM A CELTIC PAST
By Barbara O’Donnell (California- USA)
Leaving the Old World behind.
But ghosts haunt our souls,
Grandmothers, Grandfathers, and Saints.
A scrap of tradition turns the mind
To wonder about what was left behind.
A jack-o-lantern at Halloween,
A saint’s day shrouded in green,
Moves the blood,
And whispers from the past
Tell us stories about our real home.
Voices of people long dead, of people that you never knew, of people never discussed by your family have a way of speaking to you across the barrier of time and space, across the barriers of time of space.
One hundred and fifty years after the Famine in Ireland, a grandfather’s voice begins to call a child. She begins asking questions, makes some inquiries, checks census records and something ethereal happens. A fascination grows. A search is on.
Such was my experience. It began when I was a child sitting on my grandfather’s lap hearing a remnant of stories, and being told to be proud that I was Irish. But what did this mean? Most of the family was too busy making a living and trying to get ahead to think much about their heritage. But I heard the call. When I was in graduate school at California State University, Sacramento, I took it upon myself to study Irish literature and history. I wrote my master’s thesis on Irish Mythology and Poetry. But the voice that I chased was not in that study, glorious as it was. I traveled to Ireland five or six times, writing in my journal about the people I met, the places that I saw, recording snatches of conversations and collecting perceptions in general. But the voice whispered on.
“Find me ” he said, “Deep within your own heart and soul. That’s where I reside. Within your cells and blood, that’s where I live on.”
Grandfather, who left Ireland so long ago,
Oversee my journey into my past.
What were you thinking as you
Boarded coffin ships bound for
Canada or New York?
Left the famine, the poverty,
The landlord with no mercy.
Could you know that a Granddaughter
Many years later
Would make the trip home to find
Where your grave should have been
If not driven out with hunger and want?
You left me no stories, jewelry, Bibles or teacups
But you left me what counts
Laughter, a loving heart and ears that hear your voice.
What is your experience as a Celtic Woman or the child of Celtic immigrants? We would love to share your voice with others within a column of the newsletter called Celtic Women’s Voices. Poetry, short short stories (500 words), anecdotes, profiles, essays, observations, experience, descriptions or information can be submitted to:
Celtic Women International, Ltd. P O BOX 1384 Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201-1384
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