Town centre, Ardmore, County Waterford, Ireland. Photo by Callen Harty.
Rounding hills, we drove into Ardmore town,
down a street lined with walls of alternating colors,
a post office, small shops, a tavern,
and the wild waters of the Atlantic
splashing upon the windshield.
I came searching for connection
and knew upon that arrival
where my love of water,
my inclination toward the sea
had arisen within me.
It was there, under the tower
that for centuries stood
sentry over the ruins of man
and the graves of men.
“Remember man, that you are dust
and unto dust you shall return.”
The postmistress directed me to Siobhán,
the town historian, the knower of all things
Ardmore. “Harty, is it? No, sorry to say,
the last of the clan left, oh, about 1950.
Biddy Harty, it was, if I’m not mistaken.
Moved up to Waterford City.”
Thinking then there would be no connection,
my ancestry as good as dust,
we walked the cliff walk.
We walked the pasture past
curious cows ambling toward us,
questioning our presence perhaps?
Past flowers in bloom,
an ancient tree still flowering.
Past a song thrush gently singing.
Past the pasture out onto the cliffs
overlooking the sea below us.
Eyes watered as I stared into the depths,
as I felt my footsteps
walking the edge between life and death,
the path of my great-great-grandfather
watching the bay in which they fished,
the ocean they traveled to America.
No castle could compare,
no ruins of long-dead saints
or rocks upon which legends are built,
nor modern hotels or car-lined streets.
What mattered was my feet
planted in the same earth as theirs,
rolling down cheeks from the same flesh
that looked out from these seaside cliffs
so many years before me.
About Callen Harty
Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores,
He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History.
He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive.
Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
This was a lovely read Callen, thank you. I hope to trod the sod sometime soon as well.