Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin

Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin Poems

When I heard the voice on the radio
All of a sudden announcing the captives were free
I was holding my young cousin
Forcibly down with two arms

The child's teeth click against the marble.
Her ear is crushed cold against the slab,
The dredged flour almost brushed by her hair
She traces with her eye her mother's hand.

If I produce paralysis in verse
Where anger would be more suitable,
Could it be because my education

The sound of everything folding into sleep,
A sense of being nowhere at all,
Set him on his way (traffic far off, and wind
In tall trees) to a back gate, a dark yard.

I begin from the highest point,
Best of all a belltower.

I see the tops of heads, cobbles,
Terraces all scuttling down

He lay plunged in the funnel of a beanbag,
The glass in his hand as deep as a fjord.
The other went out to answer the telephone,

I saluted the famous river as I do every year
Turning south as if the plough steered,
Kicking, at the start of a new furrow, my back
To the shady purple gardens with benches under plum trees
By the river that hunts between piers and sandbanks—

I began threading the long bridge, I bowed my head
And lifted my hands from the wheel for an instant of trust,
I faced the long rows of vines curving up the hillside
Lightly like feathers, and longer than the swallow's flight,
My road already traced before me in a dance

Of three nights and three days,
Of sidestepping hills and crescent lights blinding me
(If there was just a bar counter and ice and a glass, and a room upstairs:
But it rushed past me and how many early starts before
The morning when the looped passes descend to the ruined arch?)

She came rising up out of the water, her eyes were like sandbanks
The wrinkles in her forehead were like the flaws in the mist
(maybe a long narrow boat with a man lying down
and a rod and line like a frond of hair dipping in the stream)
She was humming the song about the estuary, and the delights
Of a salt ocean, the lighthouse like a summons; and she told me:

The land will not go to that measure, it lasts, you'll see
How the earth widens and mountains are empty, only
With tracks that search and dip, from here to the city of Rome
Where the road gallops up to the dome as big as the sun.

You will see your sister going ahead of you
And she will not need to rest, but you must lie
In the dry air of your hotel where the traffic grinds before dawn,
The cello changing gear at the foot of the long hill,

And think of the story of the suitors on horseback
Getting ready to trample up the mountain of glass.

Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin Biography

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin (born 28 November 1942) is an Irish poet born in Cork (city). Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin is the daughter of Eilís Dillon and Professor Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin. She was educated at University College Cork and The University of Oxford. She lives in Dublin with her husband Macdara Woods, and they have one son, Niall. She is a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin where she is an associate professor of English Literature specialising in the Renaissance. She is a founder of the literary magazine Cyphers. Her first collection won the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award in 1973. In 2010 The Sun-fish was the winner of the Canadian-based International Griffin Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Poetry Now Award.)

The Best Poem Of Eilean Ni Chuilleanáin

A Stray

When I heard the voice on the radio
All of a sudden announcing the captives were free
I was holding my young cousin
Forcibly down with two arms
Gripping him back from the street
Where he wanted to flatten himself
Under the wheels of the cars
I waited for the shot to work
And tried to make out what he had been wearing
Half-recognizing shreds of denim,
An old velvet shirt of my own.

Next week the men were back
Bigger than we remembered
Sitting shakily in the kitchen -
The table a midden of crumbs and documents -
Getting up in the long silences
To carry a cup to the sink
And wash it very carefully.

He stayed upstairs all May.

In June when the raspberries were in
They started to help with the picking
And after that the apples -
They spent days up the ladders
And let us get on with the cooking.
We sat long evenings outside.
But he would not work in the orchard
Or eat with us at meals.

And so it remained, long after
We were used to the loud voices
Hollowing from the fields -
He jumped when he heard them.

You'd find him an odd time smoking
In the courtyard by the bins
At the foot of the steep back stairs

And our liberation never
Reached him. He lived on
Like the last of a whole people
Astray on a lost domain
Bearing all their privations:
No gin and tonic, no
Aspirin, just willow tea.
No tin-openers, no mules, no buses,
No Galician, no Methodists,
No fruit but rotten powdery imploded oranges,
No news from the prison cells.

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