Moya Cannon

Carrying the Songs

for Tríona and Maighréad Ní Dhomhnaill

Those in power write the history, those who suffer write the songs
Frank Harte

It was always those with little else to carry
who carried the songs
to Babylon,
to the Mississippi –
some of these last possessed less than nothing
did not own their own bodies
yet, three centuries later,
deep rhythms from Africa,
stowed in their hearts, their bones,
carry the world’s songs.

For those who left my county,
girls from Downings and the Rosses
who followed herring boats north to Shetland
gutting the sea’s silver as they went
or boys from Ranafast and Horn Head
who took the Derry boat,
who slept over a rope in a bothy,
songs were their souls’ currency
the pure metal of their hearts,

to be exchanged for other gold,
other songs which rang out true and bright
when flung down
upon the deal boards of their days.

From Carrying the Songs, Carcanet Press, 2007