I ran my hands on the rough
hewn rock wall as I climbed the steps
along the cliffside. I paused halfway up, looking
out across the water, sparkling a long way down.
I think this is the same spot from the picture
of my parents when they were here, years ago,
but I cannot tell. They weathered rain and gray
skies to take the photo, my mother’s hair
all whipped in front of her face.
Now the cliffs are bathed in sunlight, a different
picture entirely.
When I reached highest point of the cliff,
skin rubbed raw from the sun, I laid down in the grass,
the cool dew soothing the already blushing skin
of my sun kissed shoulders. My heels
press into the dirt, the new ink from the
heart beat on my ankle
reaching down toward the soft earth
pulsing still with each intake of breath.
The damp chill from the early morning
is still holding onto the soil, and it reaches
up, passing through my t-shirt to settle in my pores,
weaving a tapestry of dew, reminders of
those who came before me – my mother, her mother,
rebels with burning flags,
poets with nations heavy on their lips,
and you, my grandmother, a girl
then, red hair curled at the chin.
You sit back on the mantel in my father’s bedroom,
surrounded by the smell of old books,
your favorite.
I dig my palms into the ground,
the dirt from which my family tree sprouted,
digging my nails in and trying to feel the crashing
of the waves at the base of the cliffs,
try to feel the humming of traffic over the pavement
in the city, and the laughs and stories
from the pubs settling into the ground. And for a moment,
I hear the island shift, a slight intake of breath,
like a drag from a cigarette on your porch swing,
and it is silent once again.
I laid there so long, trying to hear you once more,
I missed the trip to the gift shop.
Later with the shower running in the background,
I scraped the dirt from beneath my fingernails
and brushed the dust from my hair
into a bag. I will present them to you when I return,
slide them forward as an offering
before the urn:
ashes meeting dust and grave dirt,
souvenirs from Ireland,
land of our mothers.