1/16th is just enough to claim legality
And just enough to earn the scorn of truer ancestry.
We Americans buy our heritage from the Celtic corner Shoppe,
Where they blend the Viking with the Irish and the Scot.
On stony grey asphalt of Monaghan Drive, no burglary took place
There I learned to read and write, to bike, to tag, to chase.
And I live now on Ulster Lane, its name, perhaps, a crime;
Chosen, I’m sure, for European allure, and through no fault of mine.
Only my youngest sister got your red hair, it missed me just by chance
Only she your firefly freckles, and when she laughs, they dance.
I want someday to scale a ditch, to cross by foot a dyke,
To measure your marches without claim, as tourist on a hike.
I’d visit a shed in County Wexford, once again disused,
Where the eddying echoes of mushrooms and men are buried under news:
Stacks of old papers, their troubled headlines dated mostly
From before my birth; what then? Can I recall the ghostly?
If at Mother Mary’s feet caltrops of candles flicker,
Yet outside cathedral doors will I hear whisper upon whisper
Ireland’s heroes I do not know, their names I can’t pronounce
But can I hear the hush that falls behind the rushing host?
We have been the stolen child, we have been the heifer lost
We have gloried Ireland fair, her sons and daughters cost.
What is more than history? The death of a generation precedes
The death of those who remember it, and when they are gone
Only their poets can make us feel – a little, of what they have been.
Out of our labor to comprehend, the terrible beauty can be reborn
Meditations on a single word can graft some of what was torn
And if the native branch cleave to its weirdly chosen tree
Then perhaps Ireland yet will rise through unjust husbandry.
But we
We are American.
We have not been the stolen child, nor sought the heifer lost,
We have not gloried Ireland fair, at sons’ and daughters’ cost.
Ah, Ireland! Ireland!
I have not seen, nor wept nor bled for thee;
Still, O Ireland,
May your red hair always in my family be.


  1. BROAGH - Seamus Heaney

    Riverbank, the long rigs
    ending in broad docken
    and a canopied pad
    down to the ford.

    The garden mould
    bruised easily, the shower
    gathering in your heelmark
    was the black O

    in Broagh,
    its low tattoo
    among the windy boortrees
    and rhubarb-blades

    ended almost
    suddenly, like that last
    gh the strangers found
    difficult to manage.

  2. I take that passing comment about visiting Ireland as a promise...