new zealand electronic poetry centre


Alan Papprill

Fugacity 05
Online Poetry Anthology


Tracing the Family

"If we travel on to Convoy,
set back among the trees.
we come to the family church.
The stones here lean
against the wind
in green damp field, a record
for those, like you,

"And here," she said." are John and Margaret.
(your mother's name's from her.)
or rather it's Margaret here.
John's overseas. He died mining.
In California.
Lost his leg, then his life.
Crushed in a mine collapse.
 Gold fever does that to a man.
His name is here.
He wouldn't want Margaret to be lonely.
Her being here and him
dry in distant, sun drenched hills."

"And now -
This is your Uncle David.
He's your uncle on your Gran'mother's side.
Would be, let's see, two - three generations out.
A man of letters - a lover of words -
And women.
Took Julia, his cousin, to wife.
Left her here and went,
With her sister, to seek his fortune in Dublin.
Julia, that's her grave beside him, died in childbirth
Some few months later.
Her sister, that's her grave beside the gate, left five children
Before she died - of cancer - beside the Liffey."

"And this, you see this grave?
That's your cousin, Kate -
Albert's daughter's got her name -
She died at 83 waiting for her lover to return.
He lies alone in France.
A skeleton in some deep trench along the Western Front.
But this is life we can't all find love."

"Then we drive on down the road
to Castlefin
They're all there - waiting.
There's Tom, he died - a heart attack - on his wedding night.
And, Mary, that's his wife, longing for his embrace
Died of consumption.
There's poor drowned Keith
Dead at  Portrush - on holiday
In Aunt Polly's B&B.
A misfortunate family - all here together.

This fallen angel is your Aunty Norma..
Or she would've been if she'd lived.
She died within the month.
We only now have found her grave
Lost -
Beneath the briar.

Over here - your Gran'parents.
George and Tilly sleep closer now
Than they  later did in marriage.
Your mother's ashes are here as well -
Her sisters' wait on mantels
keeping their husbands company still -
We forgive the mason's RIP

This is, then, your family.
Here in the land


Last updated 20 May, 2005