I remember your thin and hollow faces,
And the eyes that stared unfocussed from them,
And how you tried laughing but only cried.
I remember how you buried children in tiny indentations in the rocks,
Because all the furrows on your land
Were already lined with bodies,
Planted as lovingly as seeds.
I remember the trees’ sorrow when you were beneath them, not around them,
I remember the gravely paper-thin hands
That kept moving, long after no one was growing old.
I remember the sand that fell through fingers like displaced tears,
As you held tenuously onto life,
Grasping at earth and sky.
There were loud time gongs everywhere:
Church bells that rang out through empty spaces,
Tolling death through thickly crowded silences.
The living had no use for words,
Merely kept each other close,
Haunting their own hearths that had gone vacant, cold.
I remember that what kept breathing was the water and the stones.
Conversations hushed, so as to not wake the dead.
Conversations hushed, as to not exhaust the living.
I remember how a day felt like a lifetime,
How you won more time over and over,
I remember when freedom lost it’s meaning,
I remember how existence became an agony.
And yet you still moved, and you would die trying,
And the end would find you scrambling
For that one thing that might sustain you.
I remember how you starved for life,
While so many others hungered for greed.
And how they envied you, secretly,
Those whose souls mirrored your emaciated bodies.
I remember how you stood on your feet for hours
In the streets gaunt and raw,
Tattered clothing, stomachs distended and hollow,
A smolder of the light that lived inside you.
And when time ran out, how you dissipated on the wind,
Joining with the many whispering voices.
I remember the rhythmic throbbing of leaving,
Ebbing and flowing like waves crashing
Over the sands pale white with their grieving
I remember the colors of sadness atop the flagpoles.
I remember the shape of dreams as they hovered on horizons,
Like the ghostly hulls of ships in the fog:
The last withering hope to be taken to a new world.
Unsure of where I stand,
Disconnected, but one and the same,
How long would it take to be counted among everyone?
How long would it take to count everyone?
Living takes time, it’s opposite does not,
And I realize we are as fragile as snowflakes.
Lost in what has been and what might be,
I remember as time stands still.
I was not there.
2 thoughts on “The Hunger Years”
Beautiful poem Éilis, heart felt, moving story.
Thank you, Ali.