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The Day My Mother Gave Me Away to the Tinkers

by Ethna McKiernan


She'd threatened this before, thinking

it would cause me great fear after

whatever I did the umpteenth time.

She with nine children that year in Dublin,

and me the boldest and the worst.


I couldn't wait to be among them,

their bright scarves and tools

and horse-drawn caravans,

their campfires at night and sounds

of fiddles and tin whistles, the mattress

with moonlight shining

on the three babies piled upon it.


Travelling was an itch, raw

and sweet in my bones.

How could I live on plain

Mount Auburn Avenue and walk

to Muckross School when

the world of mountains

and berries and lakes



How could I carry that sliced loaf

of bread from Johnston Mooney and O'Brien's

when we could shape our own

and smell the yeast rising

from hot stones?


When I looked back,

my beautiful mother

was crying. It would be a year

before I returned, changed.

How I'd miss her.