Prayers in Time of Great Hunger

Steve Ely

Holy Mary grant me

a firkin of butter               a peck of green pease
a quart of oysters               a kenning of corn

one thousand from the Pope               two thousand
from the Queen               a fleet of kebab meat
from the Sultan of Turkey

outdoor relief               Robert Peel’s dog bones
plantain                nettle               dandelion               dock

passage to Boston               exile’s workhouse
extreme                unction

Providence grant me

epidemics      of righteous hunger
lamp-eyed      bloat-bellied babes
the ship      of the green cathedral
ribbed      with papist bones

a clear view to atlantic               vacant possession
freehold settled               on English ermine
hedge funds               holding companies
public-private partnerships               the occult bankers
of Edmund Spenser               Mobuto Sese Seko

bullioned bridgework               pliered from the jaws
of Viennese volljude               the krugerrand
counting-house      of the third Earl of Lucan
who would not      breed paupers to pay priests
cleared dropsied kernes      to ocean
and shipped in sheep

insolence and riches               Bangladeshi slaves
clipping lawns               with nail scissors
ground tigerbone sex games               wheat futures traded
from Tigray and Wollo               youth wealth
and groovy               the wisdom of monkeys
Pilate’s spotless hands