Social Justice Poetry

seeking a better life poems

A Good Reason to Be Illegal | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

Tim’s mother told him that in 1926
she was a teen in Ireland who hid
on a ship sailing to America.

She had no papers when she ran away
from her parents’ thatched-roof hut,
a speck on an English landlord’s farm.

Her family had to plant and harvest
turnips and potatoes but it wasn’t
hard work that had made her run.

It was her father who got drunk
in front of an open fire in winter
when work was slow and food

was scarce and the family hungry.
He’d fall asleep and then wake up
and yell all night that his kids

had misbehaved and made
the English landlord angry.
There are more reasons today

to be illegal than in 1926 but
thrashings with a razor strop
created a stowaway then.

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