Poems of Protest, Resistance, and Empowerment (4)

We'll be publishing poetry regularly on the No-one Left Behind blog. This week, "He Fell Through the Cracks", by Rita Ann Higgins. Rita Ann Higgins  |  Fri Feb 05 2021
Claddagh Duff, Connemara by George Campbell (1917–1979), Ulster Museum
He Fell Through the Cracks

The boy’s name was Abel.
At times he was sunny,
oftener he was sad.
He was non-verbal himself-
the voices in his head
like a Greek chorus,
never took a tea break.

He couldn’t tell you what they said
he went around the house
with his hands covering his ears
trying to block out the hub-bub.

His mother cried the day the van came.
They put him in an adult Psych ward.
He shared the ward with four men
who had their own demons.
They never got a weekend pass,
much less a visitor with some smokes.

Abel deteriorated,
his mother told doctors.
A flock of them around his bed.
The white swans of Coole.
What’s wrong love, she’d say.
He couldn’t tell her what toy he wanted.
His remote-control dinosaur, his Ninja set!

She guessed on and on for a solid week.
Every toy he owned was named, some twice over.
He slid into the quieter rooms in his head.
He didn’t cover his ears anymore.

When his file was analysed,
the professionals said,
Abel fell through the cracks.

He went in in a van,
a jalopy of a thing.
He came home in a box,
a pencil case of a thing.

Rita Ann Higgins was born in Galway and divides her time between Galway and Spiddal. Her first five poetry collections were published by Salmon Publishing: Goddess on the Mervue Bus (1986); Witch in the Bushes (1988); Goddess and Witch (1990); Philomena's Revenge (1992); Higher Purchase (1996). Bloodaxe Books published her next three collections: Sunny Side Plucked (1996); An Awful Racket (2001); Throw in the Vowels New & Selected Poems (2005). Her plays include: Face Licker Come Home (1991), God of the Hatch Man (1992), Colie Lally Doesn't Live in a Bucket (1993) and Down All the Roundabouts (1999).