The ore in the crucible is pungent, smelling like acrid wine, It is dusky red, like the ebb of poppies, And purple, like the blood of elderberries. Surely it is a strong wine – juice distilled of the fierce iron. I am drunk of its fumes. I feel its fiery flux Diffusing, permeating, Working some strange alchemy… So that I turn aside from the goodly board, So that I look askance upon the common cup,
And from the mouths of crucibles Suck forth the acrid sap.
My steadfast love! When I saw you one day by the market-house gable my eye gave a look my heart shone out I fled with you far from friends and home.
And never was sorry: you had parlours painted rooms decked out the oven reddened and loaves made up roasts on spits and cattle slaughtered; I slept in duck-down till noontime came or later if I liked.
My steadfast friend! it comes to my mind that fine Spring day how well your hat looked with the drawn gold band, the sword silver-hilted your fine brave hand and menacing prance, and the fearful tremble of treacherous enemies. You were set to ride your slim white-faced steed and Saxons saluted down to the ground, not from good will but by dint of fear – though you died at their hands, my soul’s beloved…
My steadfast friend! And when they come home, our little pet Conchúr and baby Fear Ó Laoghaire, they will ask at once where I left their father. I will tell them in woe he is left in Cill na Martar, and they’ll call for their father and get no answer…
My steadfast friend! I didn’t credit your death till your horse came home and her reins on the ground, your heart’s blood on her back to the polished saddle where you sat – where you stood…. I gave a leap to the door, a second leap to the gate and a third on your horse.
I clapped my hands quickly and started mad running as hard as I could, to find you there dead by a low furze-bush with no Pope or bishop or clergy or priest to read a psalm over you but a spent old woman who spread her cloak corner where your blood streamed from you, and I didn’t stop to clean it but drank it from my palms.
My steadfast love! Arise, stand up and come with myself and I’ll have cattle slaughtered and call fine company and hurry up the music and make you up a bed with bright sheets upon it and fine speckled quilts to bring you out in a sweat where the cold has caught you.
My friend and my treasure! Many fine-made women from Cork of the sails to Droichead na Tóime would bring you great herds and a yellow gold handful, and not sleep in their room on the night of your wake.
My friend and my lamb! Don’t you believe them nor the scandal you heard nor the jealous man’s gossip that it’s sleeping I went. It was no heavy slumber but your babies so troubled and all of them needing to be settled in peace.
People of my heart, what woman in Ireland from setting of sun could stretch out beside him and bear him three sucklings and not run wild losing Art Ó Laoghaire who lies here vanquished since yesterday morning?…
Long loss, bitter grief I was not by your side when the bullet was fired so my right side could take it or the edge of my shift till I freed you to the hills, my fine-handed horseman!
My sharp bitter loss I was not at your back when the powder was fired so my fine waist could take it or the edge of my dress, till I let you go free, My grey-eyed rider, ablest for them all.
My friend and my treasure trove! An ugly outfit for a warrior: a coffin and a cap on that great-hearted horseman who fished in the rivers and drank in the halls with white-breasted women. My thousand confusions I have lost the use of you. Ruin and bad cess to you, ugly traitor Morris, who took the man of my house and father of my young ones – a pair walking the house and the third in my womb, and I doubt that I’ll bear it.
My friend and beloved! When you left through the gate you came in again quickly, you kissed both your children, kissed the tips of my fingers. You said: ” Eibhlín, stand up and finish with your work lively and swiftly: I am leaving our home and may never return.” I made nothing of his talk for he spoke often so.
My friend and my share! O bright-sworded rider rise up now, put on your immaculate fine suit of clothes, put on your black beaver and pull on your gloves. There above is your whip and your mare is outside. Take the narrow road Eastward where the bushes bend before you and the stream will narrow for you and men and women will bow if they have their proper manners – as I doubt they have at present…
My love, and my beloved! Not my people who have died – not my three dead children nor big Dónall Ó Conaill nor Conall drowned on the sea nor the girl of twenty-six who went across the ocean alliancing with kings – not all these do I summon but Art, reaped from his feet last night on the inch of Carriginima. The brown mare’s rider deserted here beside me, no living being near him but the little black mill-women – and to top my thousand troubles their eyes not even streaming.
My friend and my calf! O Art Ó Laoghaire son of Conchúr son of Céadach son of Laoiseach Ó Laoghaire: West from the Gaortha and East from the Caolchnoc where the berries grow, yellow nuts on the branches and masses of apples in their proper season – need anyone wonder if Uibh Laoghaire were alight and Béal Atha an Ghaorthaígh and Gúgán the holy or the fine-handed rider who used tire out the hunt as they panted from Greanach and the slim hounds gave up? Alluring-eyed rider, o what ailed you last night? For I thought myself when I bought your uniform the world couldn’t kill you!
My love and my darling! My love, my bright dove! Though I couldn’t be with you nor bring you my people that’s no cause for reproach, for hard pressed were they all in shuttered rooms and narrow coffins in a sleep with no waking.
Were it not for the smallpox and the black death and the spotted fever those rough horse-riders would be rattling their reins and making a tumult on the way to your funeral, Art of the bright breast…
My friend and my calf! A vision in dream was vouchsafed me last night in Cork, a late hour, in bed by myself: our white mansion had fallen, the Gaortha had withered, our slim hounds were silent and no sweet birds, when you were found spent out in midst of the mountain with no priest or cleric but an ancient old woman to spread the edge of her cloak, and you stitched to the earth, Art Ó Laoghaire, and streams of your blood on the breast of your shirt.
My love and my darling! It is well they became you your stocking, five-ply, riding -boots to the knee, cornered Caroline hat and a lively whip on a spirited gelding, many modest mild maidens admiring behind you.
My steadfast love! When you walked through the servile strong-built towns, the merchants’ wives would salute to the ground knowing well in their hearts a fine bed-mate you were a great front-rider and father of children.
Jesus Christ well knows there’s no cap upon my skull nor shift next to my body nor shoe upon my foot-sole nor furniture in my house nor reins on the brown mare but I’ll spend it on the law; that I’ll go across the ocean to argue with the King, and if he won’t pay attention that I’ll come back again to the black-blooded savage that took my treasure.
My love and my beloved! Your corn-stacks are standing, your yellow cows milking. Your grief upon my heart all Munster couldn’t cure, nor the smiths of Oiledn na bhFionn.
Till Art Ó Laoghaire comes my grief will not disperse but cram my heart’s core, shut firmly in like a trunk locked up when the key is lost.
Women there weeping, stay there where you are, till Art Mac Conchúir summons drink with some extra for the poor – ere he enter that school not for study or for music but to bear clay and stones.
In honor of The Twelfth (Battle of the Boyne), we present this work by one of modern Ireland’s most widely-loved poets.
someone is dressing up for death today, a change of skirt or tie eating a final feast of buttered sliced pan, tea scarcely having noticed the erection that was his last shaving his face to marble for the icy laying out spraying with deodorant her coarse armpit grass someone today is leaving home on business saluting, terminally, the neighbours who will join in the cortege someone is paring his nails for the last time, a precious moment someone’s waist will not be marked with elastic in the future someone is putting out milkbottles for a day that will not come someone’s fresh breath is about to be taken clean away someone is writing a cheque that will be rejected as ‘drawer deceased’ someone is circling posthumous dates on a calendar someone is listening to an irrelevant weather forecast someone is making rash promises to friends someone’s coffin is being sanded, laminated, shined who feels this morning quite as well as ever someone if asked would find nothing remarkable in today’s date perfume and goodbyes her final will and testament someone today is seeing the world for the last time as innocently as he had seen it first
We present this work in honor of the poet’s 115th birthday.
why not merely the despaired of occasion of wordshed
is it not better abort than be barren
the hours after you are gone are so leaden they will always start dragging too soon the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want bringing up the bones the old loves sockets filled once with eyes like yours all always is it better too soon than never the black want splashing their faces saying again nine days never floated the loved nor nine months nor nine lives
saying again if you do not teach me I shall not learn saying again there is a last even of last times last times of begging last times of loving of knowing not knowing pretending a last even of last times of saying if you do not love me I shall not be loved if I do not love you I shall not love
the churn of stale words in the heart again love love love thud of the old plunger pestling the unalterable whey of words
terrified again of not loving of loving and not you of being loved and not by you of knowing not knowing pretending pretending
I and all the others that will love you if they love you