Poetry From the June 2004 issue: Beyond the Borders of English
She pricks blood from a bush,
eyes as bright
as time to come
that casts no shadow on her years.
If memory serves me right, she says,
a year after her return,
the blackberries are nowhere as sweet
as the snow we had last year.
The shimmering tide
is high as the sun
that fills every cove of her pulse,
and a thorn in her talk, unknown to her,
skins the tips of my fingers.
She wants me to taste
the black sweetness,
grown bitter as truth
on the tip of my tongue.
If I could take this day
and all the short days
already past, I would,
catch time by the throat,
and choke it until it stopped
so she could taste time and again
the leaving light of this day
soundless as last year's snow
that never fell (nor will fall)
to this earth.
These two here in front of me
think he's singing to only them
when he plays a loving lament,
their fingers ache to be home
where they can play on each
other till morning. The lonely
and old flames are amazed
a man they've never met
has the broken tunes of their dreams
off by heart on the tip of his tongue.
When he touches the strings
that tied them together the first time
ever, the married couple in the corner
move closer in spite of themselves.
When the sleeve of the man's shirt
brushes his wife's shoulder, a young fella
at the other end of the room
takes off his summer jumper and asks the barman
to turn the heat down for God Almighty's sake.
The girl made lovely by sorrow prays
he'll never rest until he finds her.
Outside, a fleet of sirens storms the night,
squadcars, ambulances and fire-brigades
running from the fire that can't be put out
in the smoldering hearts of the men inside
who are late again for the neverending funeral.
Beside the bridge, the morse code
of loneliness broadcast on flurries
of air is clear as day to the man
who has just jumped. The water is smooth
as a sheet and he is deaf to the world
as the music fills his mouth,
washing away a world of worries.
The singer keeps on strumming
the strings that stretch from the heart
to the mouth of his guitar.
His cry is soft as the river, a blanket of water
drawn up over all our sleepy heads.
Más buan mo chuimhne, adeir sí,
bliain tar éis filleadh ón iasacht,
níl na sméara chomh blasta in aon chor
le sneachta na bliana seo caite.
Tá gile na taoide
chomh hard leis an ngrian
a líonann gach cuas dá cuisle,
is dealg sa chaint i ngan fhios di
a réabann craiceann mo mhéar.
Priocann sí braonta fola den sceach,
súile daite chomh glé
leis an am le teacht
nár dhoirchigh bráillín bán
a hóige go fóill.
Ba mhaith léi go mblaisfinn
den mhilseacht dhubh
atá chomh searbh inniu
leis an bhfírinne ghlan
ar bharr mo theanga.
thabharfainn an lá seo
is na laethanta gearra go léir
a tháinig roimhe dem shaol
ach greim scrogaill a bhreith ar an uain,
é a fháisceadh gan tlás nó go stopfadh
go mblaisfeadh sí arís is arís eile
de sholas an lae seo ag dul as
chomh ciúin le sneachta na bliana seo caite
nár bhuail (is nach mbuailfidh)
urlár an tsaoil go deo.
Is dóigh leis an mbeirt os mo chomhair
gur leosan amháin a labhrann
nuair a chanann a gholtraí ghrámhar
is fada le barra a méar
go mbeidh said sa bhaile is cead
seanma ar a chéile acu go maidin.
Is ait le haonaráin is le hiarleannáin
go mbeadh fonn briste a gcroíthe ar bharr
a theanga ag fear nár casadh orthu cheana.
Nuair a bhuaileann na sreanganna síoda
a cheangail dá chéile an chéad lá riamh iad,
druideann an lánúin phósta dá mbuíochas
i leith a chéile. Nuair a chuimlíonn uillinn
a léine sin le gualainn a mhná, baineann
fear óg ar thaobh eile an tseomra
a gheansaí samhraidh de is iarrann
ar fhear an tí an teas a ísliú in ainm
dílis Dé. Guíonn an cailín a bhfuil áilleacht
an bhróin ina gnúis go mbeidh sé gan chéile
go bhfaighidh sé í. Tá an oíche á réabadh
ag foireann na gclog, scuaine scuadcharr,
otharcharr is inneall dóiteán ar a gcoimeád
ón tine nach féidir a mhúchadh
i gcuislí dóite na bhfear mór laistigh
atá mall chun na sochraide arís. In aice an droichid,
tá nodaireacht an uaignis ar chuilithíní an aeir
os a chionn léite go cruinn ag an bhfear
atá díreach tar éis léimt. Tá an t-uisce chomh mín
le bráillín is tonn álainn an cheoil ina bhéal
á bhodhradh ar bhuaireamh an tsaoil.
Leanann an ceoltóir ag seinm ar na sreanganna fola
a shíneann ón gcroí go dtí béal a ghiotáir.
Tá a chaoineadh chomh séimh le pluid
na habhann á tarraingt os ár gcionn go léir.
Louis de PaorLouis de Paor
Born in Cork in 1961, Louis de Paor has been involved with the contemporary rennaissance of poetry in Irish since 1980, when he was first published in the poetry journal Innti (which he subsequently edited). A four-time winner of the Seán Ó Ríordáin/Oireachtas Award, the premier award for a new collection of poems in Irish, he lived in Australia from 1987 to 1996. His first bilingual collection, Aimsir Bhreicneach/Freckled Weather was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Award for Literary Translation. He was also granted a Writer's Fellowship by the Australia Council in 1995. He is the recipient of the 2000 Lawrence O'Shaughnessy Award, the first poet in Irish to achieve that distinction. His most recent collection, agus rud eile de (Coiscéim, 2002), was awarded the Oireachtas Prize for the best collection of poems in Irish in 2003.
Translated from GaelicGaelic by Mary O'DonoghueMary O'Donoghue
Mary O'Donoghue was born in 1975 and grew up in County Clare, Ireland. Her first poetry collection is Tulle, published by Salmon Press; she is currently completing her second. Her writing appears in various European and North American periodicals and anthologies. Her poetry has appeared in translation in Belgium's De Brakke Hond. Her writing awards include the inaugural Salmon Poetry Prize for a first collection and the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune New Irish Writer for fiction. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches in the Arts and Humanities division at Babson College.
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