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Family Tree

Poet: Kieren Beville

When they buried my mother’s mother

it rained as we stood near the open grave.

I was afraid I might fall in 

and that my name would appear 

beneath the white marble cross

of the family plot

near the cathedral door. 

They lowered her into the dark unknown

and it seemed to me that they were wrong 

about this being the way to enter heaven. 

Shovelled earth pounded, like my heart,

on the polished pine

and gilded crucifix

keeping rhythm with the sean-nós sobs

of my shadowy aunts,

which I still see in silhouette,

like winter trees

against a solemn sky.

And I wondered if she would grow 

into a wrinkled tree – 

with branches like her bony arms

making music with the wind 

as she did when she played the melodeon – 

with silver leaves like her hair,

where birds might rest or nest 

and sing the familiar melodies.

Yes, she was a tree

and shed seeds

that made a forest of herself – 

Roots spreading deep and wide

gripping the sacred soil

now cradling the bones of her children.


Kieran Beville is author of Write Now – A Guide to Becoming a Writer (Limerick Writers' Centre, 2019), Fool’s Gold (Revival Press, 2019), Pulling Back the Clouds, a biography of Mike Kelly (Limerick Writers' Centre, 2020). Soul Songs (Revival Press, 2020). He has had many articles and poems published.