Kavanagh's picture reminds me of a young tinker family I saw near Galway, just outside the city. Their scrappy little dog looked better fed than they; but the faces of the children were bright, happy looking, and they had a scrubbed appearance to them. The mother looked a good deal older than I assumed her years to be -- a harsh reality that made me want to cry somehow. And the young man standing with them looked a bit out of place wearing a tight cap and shallow smile as he waited for the cars to pass to escort his family across the road. Stopping for them to pass, I noted that the smallest child was not wearing shoes. Now I wonder where that young mother would find a pair for that wee one with winter approaching. Or would they just go further south? Is there a place to escape the harshness of wintertime in Ireland? A place warm enough to comfort a small child's feet from the cold? Hand-me-downs are easy to abide; it's the thought of them coming from a dunghill that aches the heart.
The Complete Poems of Patrick Kavanagh
I saw her amid the dunghill debris
Looking for things
Such as an old pair of shoes or gaiters.
She was a young woman,
A tinker's wife.
Her face had streaks of care
Like wires across it,
But she was supple
As a young goat
On a windy hill.
She searched on the dunghill debris,
Over tin canisters