The Blackthorn

The blackthorn was his father's,
a piece of Ireland
that the old man could still get his hands around
even as his hands grew weak,
refused to hold. My father
never knew Ireland;
when he gripped the walking stick
it was something else he was holding on to.
I watched my father
get old; he would stare at his hand
and open and close his fist,
try to fight the arthritis.
By then he had lost the stick,
and he could have used it
to work his grip, to beat
at the hard knot that was tying him up.
When he died he was laid in the ground
only a few feet from his father,
while in Ireland the sturdy blackthorns
were defying that sad land
and bursting with white blossoms.


Anonymous submission.

by Louis McKee

Comments (1)

'The Blackthorn' is not one of McKee's strongest poems; however, its imagery carries the poem from beginning to end. The image of the hands and the handing down of the walking stick; the handing down of one's roots, Irish roots at that; the handing sown of joy embraced by sorrow but not regret. The sense of loss strikes out as the walking stick is no longer with the family, but the father of the speaker is reunited with his father - back in Ireland - in a grave where 'the sturdy blackthorns/ were defying that sad land/ and bursting with white blossoms.' A sense of joy and beauty of things gained outweighs the regret and remorse of things lost.