Poems from the West of Ireland

 

ISLAND WOMEN

Laugh of Sheela-na-gig,
wildness unleashed in the hummocks,
woman whose name is Ireland…
your sons die for the land,
your daughters remain invisible,
but the ancient mouths of island women
tell me who you really are.
Scathach on the Isle of Skye—
it was she who trained Cuchulainn
who sought her, learned from her
the skills that made him known.
She is the warrior difficult to reach,
whose island defies the faint hearted,
the acceptance of trouble.
She is the one who watches over the waters
saying “there” and “there,” choosing those
deserving of her wisdom, dispensing her favor
in the flashing light.
She is the island woman I have come to know
despite the sorrowful adornments
she has been made to wear—
the shawl, the keen, the figure bent in prayer.
This woman laughs and sings
and ranges through these hills
she knows are hers.
Come look her in the eye.

 

MWEELREA

A mountain named
to move the lips.
In the tangle of morning,
coffee steaming the window,
the heft of her glows through.
Sometimes a schmaltzy postcard,
backlit, hallelujahs bouncing
off her snowy ridges;
sometimes a hazy memory
fingering its way upward
into the conscious afternoon when
the newspaper read, sandwiches eaten,
Mweelrea speaks in a solemn pulpit voice
something of comfort and of warning.
Before a storm off the Atlantic,
Mweelrea smokes.
Dark wisps circle and glower,
hiding then revealing
her mountain bones.
Nearly transparent at dusk,
no longer grounded,
she seems to slip northward
in her gauzy shroud,
then vanishes.
In rare hours
Mweelrea projects onto the sky
in perfect focus,
her ridges now seams of an old coat.
Cloud shadows sweep
across her worn fabric,
clarify her textures,
gentle her curves.
For many days
I have watched her
shedding disguises like a fugitive.
Now, in the night
Mweelrea makes herself known
by blocking out the stars
on the horizon—
a formation suggesting a hand
sheltering the eyes,
a hand holding steady
in a baffling splash of Irish light.

 

WE ARE SLEEPING IN IRELAND

curled like the shape of the land.
The shush of the flue,
the rhythmic bleat of the lamb,
brush against our dreams.
This is the sleep of buried potatoes,
the sleep of fishermen
slack in the drift of the sea.
This is the sleep of the open hand,
of the mouth giving up desire
to the dark.

 

PADDY COYNE’S

Old women step dancing
at Paddy Coyne’s pub
glow back into their youth.
Somewhere along the stem
of their lives
their men stopped watching
the twirling skirts,
the high kick in time
to tin whistle and drum,
and instead gaze deeply
into the frothy glass.
The women’s hands join together,
their bodies weave
the remarkable space
they have created.
Their eyes shine into one another’s
as they begin to spin,
hair flying, feet drumming,
the room a dazzle
of long living women
embracing and holding on.

One Response to Poems from the West of Ireland

  1. Kathy Rademacher says:

    Hello Miriam,
    Your poetry is SO Real–it speaks to me, especially “Becoming”. I love that one! Thank you for sharing your talents with us!
    Peace & Love,
    Kathy Rademacher

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