The blackthorn was his father's,
a piece of Ireland
that the old man could still get his hands around
even as his hands grew weak,
'The Blackthorn' is not one of McKee's strongest poems; however, its imagery carries the poem from beginning to end. The image of the hands and the handing down of the walking stick; the handing down of one's roots, Irish roots at that; the handing sown of joy embraced by sorrow but not regret. The sense of loss strikes out as the walking stick is no longer with the family, but the father of the speaker is reunited with his father - back in Ireland - in a grave where 'the sturdy blackthorns/ were defying that sad land/ and bursting with white blossoms.' A sense of joy and beauty of things gained outweighs the regret and remorse of things lost.
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