Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2019  Vol. 18 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview

Reading about the Lost Children of Tuam

I knew the story would end unearthing
bones. One cannot marry an Irish man
without uncovering secrets.

Only once did his grandmother show me
the metal box of photographs as we sat
above the family store in Limerick.

She should have told me her youngest boys
never spoke. That one died (somehow) at four
while the other spent a decade in a playpen.

At twelve, he was carted off to Dublin—
left in a home run by Sisters of Charity.
When they thought he was too old

to sleep near girls, one of the nuns pushed him
to her quarters in a wheelbarrow each night
until he died of pneumonia. Even when

my daughter didn’t speak and I asked question
after question, his family said nothing.
After her diagnosis, only the aging aunt

whispered the truth, showing me
newspaper clippings from her brother’s asylum.
The dead boys’ photographs remain hidden

in the biscuit tin under the broken turntable.
I see their wide smiling faces, beautiful
as my daughter’s, as I sing nursery rhymes

in her pink room. Beautiful
as the abandoned children of Tuam,
awaiting their first communion.  

return to top