Doireann Ní Ghríofa

[chronosequence]
 

Here, where decades of diggers’ tracks
fill with murky puddles, here,
your phone fails
to find a signal. A starling
flits past. Say lost.

Strata:

This land was
an oak forest,
once, translated
 to farmland,
then swallowed by
a profit crop of un-
baubled Christmas
trees. Say
industrial saws.

 

Say fall and a scrape scrawls itself
on your hand, red under black mud. The sky darkens.
Follow clawed paw-prints. Think wolf. At a crossroad,
choose left. Feel your socks grow wet.
Say roof and see it — there — a sudden peak
that tilts the gap between trees. Walk towards it fast,
hoping for a yard with a jeep, a sheepdog, a cup of tea.
Derelict.
The house is an abandoned relic. Uninhabited,  
it draws you toward its unlocked door,
as though you could be an owner,
but know that you are a tourist
here, nothing more.                             Say silence.
Under your fingertips, walls crumble. Say rubble
and stumble in. Stair-steps sag underfoot. Say bed
and you will see it, still pink-quilted, with a pillow
dotted with fallen plaster. On the sill, a bible lies
open, pages sun-bleached, words       evaporated.

 

Strata:

In layers
of wallpaper,
in repeated splits
of tears from tears,
cleaved from old
paint below,
a broken skin
exposed
to reveal bone-
white plaster
underneath. Feel
this dwelling
shred itself back
to brick, back
to cracked
cement, back
to ground
where,
deep under
wild grass,
roots of oak
are held still
in dirt.

Say parlour. There, a chair aims away
from the cracked glass of an ancient TV
and turns towards the window instead.
In wind, a ragged net curtain blows in. Sit.
Sit and imagine yourself become someone
else. Watch the window as they once did.
Birdsong. Nettles and brambles sway. A crab-apple
blossom is drawn through the gap, lifted in
to land in your lap. A gift. Another word
comes to you then, unsummoned:                  bláth.

 

Strata:

Who could sing,
still, here?
Say starling,
bird who fills
air with inherited
sound, speckled
imitations, recalled,
passed down. A bird’s
remembered soundscape.
From a stranger’s chair,
you listen and translate its song:

 

sheep’s bleat, click of wireless, beer-bottle hiss,
boots clickclack on cobbles, child’s giggle,
weep-gulps, stream babble, chicken
-claw scritch-scratch, strike of a match

 

Say starling — starling
who listens, who lifts
shreds of us away,
who records and remembers
sounds we once made. See
this little mimic who will sing
of us to his sons and daughters.
Say inheritance.

 


Doireann Ní Ghríofa is a bilingual poet writing both in Irish and in English. Among her awards are the Ireland Chair of Poetry bursary 2014-2015. Her publications include the Irish language collections Résheoid and Dúlasair (both published by Coiscéim), the pamphlet A Hummingbird, your Heart (Smithereens Press) and Clasp (Dedalus Press) whose "poems excel in their consideration of motherhood" (Poetry Magazine, Chicago)

 author photo: John Minihan

author photo: John Minihan