Two hours, in, you hunger for what isn’t there,
the flesh on their bones, the life behind the names.
Reduced to entries in a ledger, lines of copperplate
you could be looking at a relative, then turn the page
past your mother’s mother’s mother, or her da’
or someone who knew them, nodded as they passed
on the way to church, or standing at the bar
or as they worked the fields, watched approaching rain
blessed the day for the promise in it, bent their backs again
to toiling the earth, ditch-digging, cutting peat
who made the census-taker welcome, gave him the seat
by the fire, answered his questions in the Gaelige
and who spat on the ground when he’d gone, for marking
them down like cattle, for knowing nothing of their battle.
© Steve Pottinger.
highly commended in the Plough Poetry competition 2019