Shoeless

The trip yesterday to the Cavan County Museum in Ballyjamesduff filled the creative store cupboard in countless ways. Two exhibits provide the inspiration for today’s poetry practice. There is an outdoor re-creation of a World War I Somme battlefield trench system. Chilling and illuminating simultaneously. I have read about Casualty Clearing Stations in novels. They were tiny spaces, the size of a box room, in reality, with up to nineteen wounded men in at a time.

Indoors there were many exhibits, but the Famine room included shoes found at a famine cemetary site beside a workhouse. The guide explained to the children just how precious shoes and boots were to the poor. We seldom realise the grinding poverty of previous generations, how cold they must have been in these northern climes even in summer, to have gone shoeless. I have neighbours who are barely eighty who went shoeless most of their childhood. He told this story: The family had a pair of First Communion shoes that were brought out about a hundred metres from the church. He put them on to walk in for his Communion Day. He walked out and on the way home they were taken off at the same spot away from the church, and saved for the next child’s special day.

Shoeless


Step into the shoes
of the dead departed who
have no further need.
They cannot hunger or bleed.
But their smell lingers -
trench foot, fever, the final fear.
But needs must they say.
They'll take me a mile, if, please God,
I'm granted another day.

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

workhouse shoes
Shoes found at a Workhouse cemetary
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