The Great Hunger

The Irish Famine might seem an odd topic of discussion over a Sunday lunch. My Husband took some mild ribbing from me because he panics if we run out of potatoes. But another of the indigenous Irish around the table admitted she shares the same syndrome. Which gave pause for thought…It is as if the collective memory of Black ’47 is engraved in their psyches. Even though today we can just run down to the Spar shop and buy a bag if the cupboard is bare of spuds. Trauma like that is drilled down in the collective unconsciousness. Epigenetics studies have shown how trauma changes cortisol levels and this is passed down to succeeding generations. Which got me considering survivor guilt – the veteran combatants who return home from war when their buddies do not,  the inmates of concentration camps who evaded the death machine and live to see liberation day, those who do not succumb to great plague or famine when millions fall by the way side.

The Great Hunger

The eternal ‘why me’

But not them…

Was it the grass I ate,

or tulip bulbs,

the raids on bird’s nests,

the soup of seaweed?

What strange kismet 

alchemised into earthly afterlife?

Why no fever pit fate?

Did I pay for my porridge pot slops

with an article of faith?

What did I pledge

to spare me,

allowing me the luxury

of having descendents?

Why do some of us persist

even if it is just

for the sake of existence?

That we will not,


forsake the land.

We are the land.

With some of us,

that meagre band,

She will never let go of

with Her iron hand.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

2 thoughts on “The Great Hunger

  1. Mmmm… I think some of the trauma is down to the fact that some survived at the expense of others – not simply because they were hardier to begin with, or knew how to fashion what little was on offer in the natural world around them to meet their desperate needs. And that, alas, is often the case in times of crisis. And it is hard to celebrate that, indeed; and harder to forget it.

    Liked by 1 person

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