The Emigrant's Suitcase

By RuairĂ­ Elms-Harrison, 2nd Year

Object No. 95 Emigrant's suitcase, 1950s
National Museum of Ireland - Country Life

As I stand on the pier, icy air. 

Salt spray, sleet, stings my face. 

I look to the sea and there, 

My future is ahead of me.

Battling the tendrils of the abyss 

HMS Valkyrie 

Surging through the icy darkness 

To port. To me.

I brace, water surging all around 

Mighty waves clash with steel. 

As my heart races, 

I glimpse sunlight 

And know we have arrived.

But to no land or safe harbour 

It is the sea we came for, 

Or what lies beneath 

This heaving swell.

We ready the sub, anticipation. 

Plunging the depths, excitement turns to terror 

There! A behemoth, the unsinkable. 


Beauty, magnificence, sorrow. 

A briny grave, a place of screams 

Listen. See. 

See there, something calling softly.

No Davy Jones locker, but a humble suitcase 

Carrying dark secrets, treasure? 

A robotic arm explores, gently, gently 

No! I cry, as it dissolves into wet ash.

Not treasure revealed but ghosts… 

Floating towards me, a photograph. 

A young man cradling a baby girl 

And a young woman, smiling.

Delicate like the suitcase, fragile, 

Soluble. Wait! A fragment gently rests 

On glass, words materialise through gloom 

The dead do speak.

My sweetest Annabelle, I am truly sorry 

To have missed your first birthday. 

Daddy is nearly home, only a little while longer 

Yours forever, Finn O’Hara, your loving father.

For months I have been searching, 

Coming up to a year. Yet, here I stand 

In front of this small cottage door, 

What to say, how to act?

An auburn-haired boy shouts for his mum 

What can I do for you? Silence fills me 

I stutter with fear 

Is Annabelle here?

Her sadness fills the misty air 

Come through. A shrivelled old lady 

In a bed of cotton, 

Familiar soft blue eyes.

Silence takes me. Annabelle 

Looks straight through me 

I’ve something for you 

A scribbled note.

She stares, reads, tears on soft cheeks. 

Am I in heaven?  Are you an angel? 

I’m a messenger 

And he loved you.

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