Tori Lee is originally from Somerset in the South West of England. She moved to Ireland in 1996 living in first Dublin and has been living in Leitrim for the past 15 years. She runs Brouhaha Drama, drama and performance skills classes for children aged 4-12 years around Leitrim and Sligo.
Her poem Hope Travels Wary on the Road is about the Edward sisters who walked from Derrygonnelly in Fermanagh to the Manorhamilton Workhouse in Leitrim looking for aid during the the cold February of 1846.
Hope Travels Wary on the Road
I see you. I see you dawning, dim morning sluggish to open her eye
Coldly set upon the two, dirt clinging to their skin….possessively claws deep.
Upon them, around them, a veil of dust and discord, no bowl of warmth to satisfy
Stomachs empty, which no longer growls as it knows better than to protest. It retreats deep
Inside each one, whimpering, defeated, in solitary confinement
Unaccustomed to a life of happy contentment.
A journey to continue, no heroic bounding, no chorus to spur the story on
Except the few birds that lift their voices in habit to the mornings slow pace.
Across the land, desolate….deprived of the hand of the tiller, now gone,
These two walk hand in hand, cold light of an indifferent morn on their face.
No rosy dawn of a Homeric Odyssey, for what has begone, and become and before
Wrapped, spun and woven by graces, by norns, is harsh, is untethered in its state it is raw.
Each sister clinging to a pale resemblance of life, voiceless, no sound from each
Their tongues complicit with the body what energy they can muster to conserve
And then, breaking the bodies pact one hand outstretches to her sister who in reach
Takes the cold fingers into her own icy grip reminding each of the life they wish to preserve
In tales told of this land of theirs. There are conflicts fought, those who hold a crown
Those who war, by man by Sidhe, Now the land itself strikes them down
And yet, a whisper in the wind, carried forth, messenger upon messenger
Winged soles and souls carry vermin on their heels to this dastardly stage
Sitting upon leather seats, whilst leathered faces reap the rewards of this harbinger
The tragedy unfolds, whilst those who fashion themselves benevolent on the history page
Like ancient Gods, with many faces with which to take and to which to give
Starve their subjects, flying free of sympathy, for the ragged mass which fight to live
Keening, keening for the land, for the people, for the hopes buried roots
For a family history the sisters walk to survive whilst their tale is already fated
Soundless keening as each voice left, all cracked and gnarled finds itself mute
Nothing left to eat but that of the sins of others, gorging, bloated all unsated
And walk, two sisters, mile upon mile, sustenance provided by a wary hope
To the ends of the world, to the workhouse, miles washed away with a pound of soap