The Fieldstone Review

Myself and Her Majesty's Government

by Nancy Cook

Hunger led my ancestors out of Ireland’s silver mists to the tumbling hills
of Pennsylvania. There Patrick Healy got work on the railroad. Heartbroken
Peg O’Leary gave to her sons the names of Irish patriots and swore
she’d return to Ireland to die, although she did not. A different hunger
leads me back to this place, green-gold island held aloft
by a rainbow handle, where fists of clouds press upon the earth
and God’s own tears fill the hollows to overflowing. Here
I am making friends, many but lately returned to the soft turf
weighted down by heavy stone and remembrance. Some twenty-five,
thirty-five years past, an instinct for survival drove their younger selves
across noose-shaped borders, borders conceived in the razored language
of laws, borders sustained by so many ancient, ungovernable passions.
What do we have in common, these new friends and myself? What
brings us together? Somewhere beneath these fields of grass our roots
are intertwined. Our journeys intersect at White Tailor’s Cross in Cork,
at Galway’s Eyre Square, at a common sheeps’ crossing in Donegal,
at Market Street and Dublin Road in Omagh. What have we in common?
This: Blood memory. Unreliable mercy. Lust for words. Hunger.
And where does Her Majesty’s Government enter in? Never
a minor character. Tight-lipped, dry-witted, her understudies
speaking determined carry-ons!, wreathed in impossibly
unfashionable ties, sated, satisfied, drenched in certainty, though
ankle-deep in bogs beyond the borders of their knowing. What
shall we read between the lines? I don’t know. This is not, after all,
that poem. These are merely lines in a poem. This is not the story,
only scenes from a story whose plot is yet to be uncovered.