Gathering Stones

from Gathering Stones

  During the Famine years, the British Protestant churches created work for the Irish to earn bread or soup. Much of the work was difficult, like splitting stone, or even useless, like gathering stones from fields and building rock walls that began and ended randomly across the countryside. Weak from hunger and malnourishment, many people died “on the job” as they tried to secure food for their families who were starving to death.

 

During the Famine years, the British Protestant churches created work for the Irish to earn bread or soup. Much of the work was difficult, like splitting stone, or even useless, like gathering stones from fields and building rock walls that began and ended randomly across the countryside.

Weak from hunger and malnourishment, many people died “on the job” as they tried to secure food for their families who were starving to death.

Searching by moonlight, scouring by day,
rough hands find rock, dirt, straw. Babes
wail awhile then remain silent

clear the fields. boys, clear the fields,
soup’s waiting when you’re through


Bloated bodies with grass-stained mouths
linger beside the road, none strong enough
to bury the dead.

clear the fields. boys, clear the fields,
bread’s waiting when you’re through


Leave hills, home, swap rocks for a sack
full of scraps, nothing left but the journey.

clear the fields. boys, clear the fields,
God’s waiting when you’re through