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.