Phytophthera Infestans

Splattered on the leaves like tabloid headlines,
The dark spots touched off invisible fuses,
Blasting fungus shrapnel down
To the roots till lumpers hung rotting,
Like timorous brains.
The poison didn’t stop at potatoes.
Cabins of the poor crumbled,
Consonants and diphthongs too,
Mushy and useless in a million rotting mouths.
Children’s faces slackened,
Blackening with cholera into
Engravings for the Illustrated London News.
The century collapsed in
On the black hole at its centre
Of potato pulp and Times editorials.
Mulch for a new crop –
These fiery flowers that bloom
In barracks, office block and pub,
Shards pulverising flesh and bone
Like potatoes.

: Steve Hennessy. Author of the Famine play, 'Act of Union', he is an Irish writer living in Bristol.

Published in The Green Dragon No 3, June 1997