John McCullagh August 15, 2005
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There’s not a chance now that I might recover

one syllable of what that sick man said,

tapping upon my great-grandmother’s shutter,

and begging, I was told, a piece of bread;

for on his tainted breath there hung infection

rank from the cabins of the stricken west,

the spores from black potato-stalks, the spittle

mottled with poison in his rattling chest;

but she who, by her nature, quickly answered,

accepted in return the famine-fever;

and that chance meeting, that brief confrontation,

conscribed me of the Irishry for ever.

 

Though much I cherish lies outside their vision,

and much they prize I have no claim to share,

yet in that woman’s death I found my nation;

the old wound aches and shows its fellow scar.

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