‘Destination: Port of New York, 23 December 1929’ by Maggie Sawkins

Destination: Port of New York
23 December 1929

Even though your name is there
on the SS Cameronia’s passenger list:
Regina M Keohane, scholar aged eight,
of sound mind and body,
you were the one sister
left behind in Aughnacliffe,
along with your Grandda’s blue cow
and your milk bottle doll.

But if you had gone
I would not have been born.
I wouldn’t have spent my life
caught in an undertow.
Watching for the feathering of waves,
fighting the weight of an ocean.

(from Zones of Avoidance, Cinnamon Press)

Author’s note: My grandfather, Thomas Keohane, left Ireland for America in 1929 taking half his family of motherless children with him. He planned to return for the other five once he had made a living. He died three years later and was buried in Boston. The family was never reunited.
 
 
 
Maggie Sawkins won the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her live literature production, Zones of Avoidance. She lives in Portsmouth where she runs writing projects in community and healthcare settings. She’s currently facilitating poetry workshops at Erlestoke Prison in Wiltshire as part of their Penned Up Festival. www.zonesofavoidance.wordpress.com