One hare, absorbed, sitting still,
Right in the grassy middle of the track,
I met when I fled up into the hills, that time
My father was dying in a hospital –
I see her suddenly again, borne back
By the morning paper's prize photograph:
Two greyhounds tumbling over, absurdly gross,
While the hare shoots off to the left, her bright eye
Full not only of speed and fear
But surely in the moment a glad power,
Like my father's, running from a lorry-load of soldiers
In nineteen twenty-one, nineteen years old, never
Such gladness, he said, cornering in the narrow road
Between high hedges, in summer dusk.
Like him should never have been coursed,
But, clever, she gets off; another day
She'll fool the stupid dogs, double back
On her own scent, downhill, and choose her time
To spring away out of the frame, all while
The pack is labouring up.
The lorry was growling
And he was clever, he saw a house
And risked an open kitchen door. The soldiers
Found six people in a country kitchen, one
Drying his face, dazed-looking, the towel
Half covering his face. The lorry left,
The people let him sleep there, he came out
Into a blissful dawn. Should he have chanced that door?
If the sheltering house bad been burned down, what good
Could all his bright running have done
For those that harboured him?
And I should not
Have run away, but I went back to the city
Next morning, washed in brown bog water, and
I thought about the hare, in her hour of ease.
The Sun-fish is published by the Gallery Press (£10.50) www.gallerypress.com
SOURCE: “Poetry from the Irish,” in Irish Literary Supplement, Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring, 1991, p. 14.
[In the following excerpt, Allison praises Ní Chuilleanáin's poetry for its grace and simplicity.]
In [Ciaran] Carson's world, language is deceptive and meaning is unstable, but in Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin's poetry language is serenely confident and comfortable in its relationship to the world and to the fictions it brings into being. The language of The Magdalene Sermon is simple, uncluttered and limpid, and Ní Chuilleanáin's poems are graceful and marvellously unfussy; she seems incapable of writing a superfluous line. She doesn't use figurative language very much, but when she does it is apt and fine: “Our tall pine where cones clung like mussels” (“The Italian Kitchen”). Usually her poems encapsulate a telling scene from a larger untold narrative, and aptly many of the poems have titles like those of paintings: “River, With Boats,” “St Mary Magdalene Preaching at Marseilles,” “Fallen Tree in a Churchyard,” In “Looking at the Fall,” a mother and child gaze at a waterfall which is portrayed in almost hypnotic terms, and the poem closes with a bleak moment of visionary intensity, as they see “the bones piled in the mountainside. And the cross wind cutting at the roots, / Whistling in the dry bed of the stream.” Ní Chuilleanáin guides her poems again and again into the most assured and even startling closures, as in “Balloon,” where the balloon floating around the child's room becomes transformed magically as it lands, and “A big strange fish gleams, filling the child's bed,” and in “River, With Boats,” where a woman's idyllic riverside view is spoiled by a ship “Swaying and tugging and flapping like wind. And the faces of the mariners, Crowd at the glass like fishes.”…