Reflections Frome Grosse Isle, 1847

By Bill Fitzsimons

Each week now they arrive
in their unwashed thousands,
with their monkey language, stunted bodies
and strange ways.
God’s rejects, coming from a broken land
where Hunger grins with glee
and hope has fled.
Old men in their twenties,
wizened hags not yet eighteen
and children with the pallor of death
on their animal faces:
this is the sight that greets me
all day, every day.
God in Heaven, what more is there to say?
Is it for this that I have taken
my Hippocratic vows?
That I should live among
the walking dead
on this devil-haunted isle?
No human power can animate
a corpse, nor mend a fractured soul.
Yet still I stay and still
the Irish come. Some recover
and move on, taking their withered dreams
with them—some stay here….forever.
I report the details and, as I write,
I ask myself, when I am gone
whose future writings will record their plight?

Bill Fitzsimons 2023

Back to the National Poetry Day Refuge collection