When I started to post this I couldn't have imagined how difficult -- almost impossible -- it would be. Others must have posted poems as blogs but I'm finding, after hours of trying to format it as it should be, it seems impossible. The only solution I can think of now is to double-space the whole thing. As much as I hate doing this here it is.
I have never seen Punta Beg
And don't know that I ever will,
Except in the pictures my mother painted
In words that are with me still,
Pictures so clear and so vivid
That if I should awake there today
I'd have no confusion nor doubt where I was
And might hear my mother say,
"Be careful, Sissy, be careful,
Don't run with the bottles, don't run!"
And Sissy so proud and her head in the clouds,
Clap her hands for all of the fun and look
Down at the mess with her chin on her chest
Saying, "oh, Mary Kate, look what I've done."
Sissy was Sara, my mother's next younger,
Mary Kate my mother and Julia the tot;
John was a boy who would soon be a man
With the job of a man because that was his lot.
The Punta Beg life was a frivolous life
Full of laughter, learning, music and dance,
And who would imagine the sadness awaiting
In the grimmest of circumstance?
Their mother was taken, their father was taken --
So much of the love those children had known --
Gone with those wonderful people and
The Punta Beg orphans so nearly alone.
Not that they'd lost their spirits --
A legacy much too strong --
Such spirit could never be broken
Or discouragement hold them for long.
After huddles and consultations that
Involved a committee of two,
An uncle here and an uncle there said,
"We've thought this matter all the way through,
And decided and concluded and it just seems fair
That with all things considered
(Except others' opinions)
They can't stay here and they must go there."
So arrangements were made, the passage was paid,
The Merrion waited at Cobh;
An uncle whose heart wasn't made for the part
Hooked up the carriage and drove --
The long painful jouney to Cobh.
And holding his tears this uncle said to
The boy fifteen, now a man,
"Look after your sisters, young Johnny,
The very, very best that you can."
He did; the boy did.
The ship, my mother told me,
Sailed upside down half the way
To the place that would now be forever their
Home -- the strange and mysterious USA.
On August eleventh of nineteen-seven
They sailed up to Market Street --
In Philadelphia City -- here to meet
Sights and sounds, styles and faces,
People of other nations and races; the
Girls eyes wide, unbelieving, John standing
Tall and in charge, the girls hardly breathing,
Baby gripping a hand in each hand.
Soon their mettle was tested and would be tested more,
The grand home wasn't grand, the rich uncle, naturally, poor.
Nine children in the house already, thirteen when added four more,
"Fifteen of us," whispered Baby, "we'll never shut the door."
Their lives were hard, education cut short,
They endured what they must and stood strong,
The laughter and music they brought from home
And the steel in their spines lasted long.
Mary Kate and Sara met Jack and Tom,
Two Irish brothers from Clare,
Well, maybe not Clare but Kensington,
But their parents came from there.
They married the brothers and issued
A truly amazing brood,
Fifteen double first cousins, it seemed
Half of our neighborhood.
And Julia married another Tom and
Had children whose children had more
And those children had children who naturally
Had children as all those before.
John, of course, kept his word to the end,
Looking after those girls even when
He was already plowing a field of his own
(So to speak) and his offspring would plow it again.
And so it went for a hundred years which
Have brought us to this very day,
A noble story of struggle and glory
And memories too precious to let pass away.
----------Charlie Killeen, August 2007