New Cathedral Cemetery, Baltimore

by Stephen O'Connell

My great aunt was born in Spiddal in 1909.

As a teenager in New York in the 1980s,
growing fervent in my nationalism,
I sought out her first-hand accounts
of the War of Independence,
the Civil War.

“The Tans were terrible,” she said
and returned to her description of a lunch
she had made the week before
for the wealthy family
she tended to.

I learned many years later that her uncle,
my great-great uncle, had been in the RIC,
and had fecked off to Maryland in 1921.
There were already Folans there
and he extended the beachhead —
Baltimore was where my great aunt went first
when it was her time to emigrate.

I learned also years later that that uncle
found gainful employment
in the Maryland Penitentiary
On Greenmount Avenue in Baltimore,
and imagining the who and how
inmates were kept in line there
is not a welcome line of thought.

My great-great uncle eventually
returned to Ireland, opened a pub,
and proposed,
My great aunt never had children
and her wishes mandated she be
buried in the New Cathedral Cemetary
in Baltimore

miles and miles and miles
from her nearest living relation.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed in Poetry as Commemoration workshops held at Galway City Museum  on 5th and 12th of November, 2022. The workshops were led by writer Gerry Hanberry.