I thought I’d collect a selection of the reviews and interviews I’ve been privileged to receive to date for my recent memoir, Tied to the Wind. I’m posting the full endorsements I received from authors and poets I admire. For reasons of space, only extracts from these endorsements could be included in the book.
Tied to the Wind, is a whirlwind epic of a young Irish girl coming of age – set primarily against a wild and expansive African landscape and the War of Independence in Zimbabwe.
This is a romantic yet brutal world, where alcohol-fuelled oversight can sometimes blur the lines between childhood freedom and unintentional neglect.
The hugely attractive and magical power of Afric McGlinchey’s writing is found in the clarity of her storytelling. The tight weave of this colourful and complex tapestry cuts right to the marrow of the life, love, pain, aspiration and disillusion of a family united in love, yet torn in all directions by culture, career and geographical location.
Afric McGlinchey’s Tied To The Wind is powerful, insightful and fascinating. Through the innocent lens of a child’s point of view, she explores the failures of adults without judgement or recrimination, and learns from her father that failure is but an opportunity to begin again – offering the freedom to set out on a new adventure.
The narrative ultimately reaches a personal redemption when we meet her and her cousin Freya, both young women, living the life, having fun, penniless and busking in Paris – feet firmly on the ground and tacking into the wind. Absolutely wonderful. – Cónal Creedon
Afric McGlinchey is a poet of memory, of migration, of displacement, but also of childhood and of love. Tied to the Wind portrays a life lived between Ireland and Africa depicted in searingly beautiful prose, as sharp and as poignant as black and white photographs. I loved it. – William Wall (author of Smugglers in the Underground Hug Trade, Doire Press)
I’ve had a truly lovely experience with Tied to the Wind. It’s a book of intense sensations, and kaleidoscopic atmosphere. I could almost feel its heat, smell its exotic fragrances, hear its gentle sounds. It was beautiful, poignant, and transporting. I finished it last night by the fire, and already I miss it. – Sara Baume (author of Handiwork, Tramp Press)
I loved Afric McGlinchey’s lyrical and haunting memoir Tied to the Wind. Simultaneously intimate and epic, McGlinchey’s search for belonging voyages the reader through a sequence of unforgettable landscapes, braiding beauty and challenge into an unforgettable book that lingers long in the reader’s heart. – Grace Wells (author of Fur, Dedalus Press)
Afric McGlinchey has written a memoir with prose poetry as her medium; the past returns in waves of memorable, poignant images, where love is challenged, and home is ever in question. Where to be, how to be and how to love are the kinds of questions Tied to the Wind asks; it’s a courageous and moving piece of work. – Paul Perry (author of the Garden, New Island Press)
Exquisite – a beautifully-written, lyrical charm. – Paul McMahon (author of The Pups in the Bog, an Abbey Theatre production)
Afric McGlinchey’s long-form debut steals beguilingly across the spiderweb between poetry, memoir and novel, offering an exquisitely rendered narrative of a young, hurting, growing life. Lush, sensitive, harrowing, gloriously written. – Mia Gallagher (author of Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland, New Island Press)
Here’s a piece I wrote for The Irish Times about the process of writing Tied to the Wind:
Bringing my mother back to life
Afric McGlinchey on writing her memoir Tied to the Wind to pin down her past
Mon, Jan 3, 2022, 06:42Afric McGlinchey
Aifric McGlinchey: “I had to be the agent of my own story, not merely a witness to other lives.”
The compulsion to write a memoir began to overwhelm me, particularly after my mother died. (She had early-onset dementia and I was afraid it might happen to me too.)
If some memories have dissolved, others have retained their significance. I wanted to explore why these, why not others. I haven’t relied on journals and diaries – all of them were lost over the course of our family’s many moves. So these are the memories that came along with me, as part of my psychological baggage. I have included occasional interjections by my father and siblings, to highlight my fallibility as a narrator, and to suggest that their perspectives might have produced an entirely different story.
Of course, I wanted to get my hands on as many memoirs as I could to research ways of entering the narrative, but was concerned that this would have a distorting influence; I might adapt them, and accept words and concepts that would cause my to stray from my own intuitive direction. Also, while others might strive for constraint, my personal mission was to rescue exaggeration, not to write reasonably. Drama has been a key factor in my upbringing, and I’m told I can be quite melodramatic myself.
I was the peace-maker in my volatile family, and a people-pleaser. In writing my auto-fictional memoir, I discovered that I had also become a master of dissociation as a coping mechanism.
As children, my siblings and I had to become accustomed to moving, and with each move, to experience losses and separations. The result of such a peripatetic life is either not to become attached at all, or conversely, to dive in deeply as quickly as possible, to extract maximum emotional value, before you are wrenched away. And the way to people’s hearts, I discovered, was through our family stories, many of them growing taller and taller with each re-telling.
When it came to writing this memoir, I couldn’t be absolutely certain about what was true and what was exaggerated. Which is why the memoir has been cast as auto-fiction. This gave me the freedom to change names (for protection), and to converge memories. I have also altered the chronological sequence for two reasons: because I can’t precisely remember dates, and also for narrative convenience.
But why publish at all?
The public reason is that I was awarded an Arts Council Literature Bursary and felt the need to produce a result. A more private reason is that I also wanted to bring my mother back to life. I was a daddy’s girl and didn’t know my mother well. I wanted to ‘find’ her, and by osmosis, learn something about myself too. Also, I never had closure with her. There were things we both needed to forgive. I wanted to revive her so I could love and honour her more.
And there’s a third reason. When I met the Limerick-born poet Desmond O’Grady in Kinsale, where he was living at the same time as me, he repeatedly offered this advice: ‘live a life. Leave a record.’ And that made an impact on me.
In the end, I had far too much material. I found that by breaking down the stories into micro-memories, and treating them as prose poems, I could apply my editing skills as a poet and keep cutting until each took up no more than a page.
Many of the memories relate to stories my father told us over the years, and to things that happened to my brother, to my mother. But Alan Heathcock, an American writer whose workshop I attended, advised me that I had to be the agent of my own story, not merely a witness to other lives. I had to be the actor – find my own acts.
I am conscious that happiness ‘writes white’. But still, when I looked at my narrative more closely, I was shocked: why were the strongest personal experiences based around anger, embarrassment, shame, guilt? Why did my childhood identity seem to be primarily bound up with the concept of fear?
And then I realised something. It was my fears that made me an agent in my own life; that drove me to act.
That revelation led me to focusing my narrative around a single event – the first completely independent act of my life. A parachute jump.
It was to be a defining moment. It would liberate me from my fears. It would change my life.
And it did. During the landing, I fractured four vertebrae, and was lucky to survive. For the first fortnight, the doctors believed I would be paralysed from the waist down. I was incarcerated in hospital for a long time. And during that time, I began to write.
So yes, the jump did change my life. I’ve become a writer as a result of that single mad act. Thank you for helping me to realise that, Alan Heathcock.
The narrative is interspersed with a series of flashes forward to that jump.
So far, the wind has carried me to a certain height, from which I have had a whole new perspective. I trust and hope it will continue to offer a soft landing. Tied to the Wind by Afric McGlinchey is published by Broken Sleep Booksand is also available as an ebook.
Here’s a link to an interview for OUT FROM THE CITY (interview by Leah Mulcahy):
Here’s an interview with the author Nikki Dudley for her blog:
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Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your writing?
I live with my partner, an artist and poet, by the sea in a remote part of West Cork. I’m a book editor, reviewer, workshop facilitator and mentor. So my life is all about the written word. When I’m not working, I’m reading other stuff and writing, walking and swimming. Lockdown has been easy for us, as not much about our life has changed.
In terms of my writing habits, I don’t have a set rhythm or ritual, although I’m more likely to write in the morning. I hate the idea of being pigeon-holed, although there’s not much chance of that anyway, as I’ve lived a pretty nomadic life, and don’t really fit into any of the Irish boxes. All I ask of myself is that every new book I write has a freshness to it, a new angle, different from my earlier work. Of course, one’s writing style or ‘voice’ is always going to be identifiable, like handwriting. No getting away from that!
Q: Which book/s have you read at least 3 times?
Well, I’ve read King Lear – my favourite Shakespeare play – at least six times, but as that was for study, maybe it doesn’t count? Sylvia Plath’s Ariel poems, because I wrote my thesis on her work. Recently, I read the Canadian poet, Eva H.D.’s début, Perfect Rotten Mouth several times. Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland. Oh, and Amy Leach’s Things that Are. But I am such a bibliophile that usually I get to read a book only once or maybe twice, because there are so many tantalising others queued up, waiting.
Q: Is there a writer you would love to meet? Who and why?
Impossible question! So many writers, so many reasons! Maybe James Joyce – a very complex character, probably fun when he was drinking. Because even though he was supremely selfish, his self-belief and his gigantic vision, intellect and ambition were spectacular – as well as his ability to win patrons, his courage, impulsiveness and sense of adventure, his ability to absorb languages the way you absorb a tan in the sunshine. Joyce reminds me of my charismatic, alcoholic, musical, self-absorbed, adventurous father, whom I adored.
Q: What’s your least favourite part of the writing process?
Having to promote a new book. Although I do enjoy readings if there’s another poet reading with me. Much less pressure!
Q: Which fictional character would you invite for a drink and what do you think you’d discuss?
I’d like to invite both Sugar and Agnes from Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. It was agony reading about Agnes’s continuing ingnorance of sexual matters, even periods, and I’d love to have a heart-to-heart with both of them about being women in those Victorian times, sharing with them how it is these days, discussing the dynamics between men and women then and now.
Q: How would you describe your writing style? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you write everyday or whenever the moment strikes you?
A pantser. I binge write at first. Once the bones of a book are in place though, strategy comes into it.
Q: What advice would you give a new writer?
Seek out a mentor. Make friends with your local librarian, and request books. Read, read, read, not just Irish, but international writers, and outside your own genre too. Only submit poems you’re proud of to journals you admire (if you can’t afford to subscribe to them, you can access them in good libraries, or online). Always wait at least a month after writing a poem before sending it anywhere, because hopefully you’ll continue editing and improving it. Submit regularly to New Irish Writing and enter competitions.
Q: What inspires you?
The sea. Swimming. The natural world. Dinner party conversations with good friends. Music. Art. Movies. New places. Flying. Love. Reading.
Q: Which words/phrases do you overuse in your writing?
Honestly not sure. Just did a check on Wordcounter and the repeated words in an extended piece I’ve just written are: wind, light, sea, body. You can see where I’ve been spending lockdown!
Q: Tell us about your latest work.
It’s called Tied to the Wind, and is an auto-fictional account of my nomadic childhood. My family moved back and forth between Ireland and Southern Africa, so it was difficult to attach, latch on, to have a sense of belonging. I wanted to re-enter that childhood space, to relive those moments. So I wrote in the present tense, with no advantage of enlightened adult hindsight. I wanted to meet the child I was, and get a sense of her and her perceptions. The I, in the story, is called Itosha. That distancing helped.
The constant moving triggers a sense of destabilisation, exacerbated by my father’s alcoholism, racism, war and the conflicts of complicit colonial privilege. Interwoven into the narrative are flash-forward puzzle pieces of a fateful decision to undertake a skydive, despite Itosha’s fear of heights. She wanted to shock everyone, including herself, to be an agent in her own life. And that impulsive act backfires. But she does learn something too.
I intended the narrative to be in the form of prose poems, but some critic is bound to argue that it’s no such thing. Of course, it depends on how you define a prose poem. I read the Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, and the diversity of those poems is exhilarating. I also read Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – another one I’ve read a few times! My story isn’t as lyrically ‘heightened’ as that. But if I define a prose poem as having a certain compression, an atmosphere, as having its own entity, who’s to contradict me?
Q: Where can we find out more about you and/or your book?
Here’s a link my book on the Broken Sleep Books website, where you can order the book:
Honoured and thrilled to receive this generous close reading of my collection, by Abigail Ardelle Zammit. I hope you’ll indulge me if I post it here. Ach, I can’t resist! Besides, it’s also a great example of how to write a review. 🙂
Ghost of the Fisher Cat by Afric McGlinchey (Salmon Poetry)
Review by Abigail Ardelle Zammit
Appears in Issue 58 of Ofi Literary Magazine (Mexico)
Poetry is often considered to be difficult because it challenges the mind to pin down language into units of limited signification, opening it up, not only to plurality, but to the bizarre, the surreal and the unexpected, where the word is more connotation than referent, the verse more music than signification, the whole poem more like a symphony than the unravelling of some secret meaning. The extent to which poets play on this subversive use of language varies enormously, but in Afric McGlinchey’s second collection, Ghost of the Fisher Cat, the reader is often at the far end of the spectrum where the juxtaposition of unusual metaphor and conceit, the surprising lexical connotations, the tight stanza forms and highly-charged line breaks demand the reader’s trust in the poet’s ability to inspire feelings, sensations and emotional turbulences, even when the meanings or narrative layers are not immediately cohesive.
Occupying a liminal space between fable and reality where the dead and the living converge, it is necessary for these poems to reach towards a linguistic and thematic otherness. In ‘Shadow’ therefore, which comes with a nod to Hans Christian Anderson, it might be less important to pin down the speaker and the mysterious ‘she’ who moves ‘to the sun’ than to savour the beauty of the sexual pull ‘towards/the body of the world’, the delicious tearing following ‘a catapulting leap’ where the speaker, simultaneously cat and human, discovers ‘passion’s bounty, a lover’s tongue’. In this poem, the recurrent motif of open windows suggests an escape into a surreal space where the characters can merge into their shadows or their ghostly incarnations, but also where the writer can swim into the embryonic freedom of her creative self.
In ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, ‘ John Mayer’s love song allows the first person narrator to ponder why she is attracted to ‘the unknown / of the known’, to savour her lover’s proximity, feeling her heart’s push against his body. She must move around ‘blindly’, vulnerable to the light and the openness that freedom brings: ‘the doors, both back and front / are still open, and the yellowwood floor / is glowing’. Even in the well-executed villanelle, ‘Alchemy of Happiness’, which is dedicated to the poet’s son, the boy ‘flies through doorless rooms / across a private ocean’; imagining this joie de vivre is more rewarding than trying to pin down the precise question that his body asks, or the way it ‘gives an answer’ as the young limbs float into the airy space of childhood and half-tamed wilderness. The poem is indeed a ‘song of slanted movement’ because of its circular re-telling and reaffirmations and its refusal to pin down meaning. In the poem that precedes it, ‘The Importance of Being’, the epigraph from Wilde suggests that the soul can soar beyond human comprehension, so that in trying to imagine its metaphysical orbit, one has to talk of ‘slanting rain’; once again, the conclusion is an indirect commentary on the role of the imagination:
takes him far beyond
these four-walled days,
floats his soul
through this tiny window
Doubtlessly, ‘Ghost of the Fisher Cat’, which comes toward the end of the collection, continues the trajectory of the very first poem, ‘Cat Music’ – the transformation from cat gut to violin strings – which is also the exploration of art’s capacity for transcendence. The poem starts with a rhetorical question – ‘How to describe the topography / of the imagination?’ Despite the speaker’s directions to the readers: ‘Let your eyes go soft,/ sense peripherals / like an animal tracker’, there will always be those whose mind’s eye does not capture the ghost-cat, ‘her sinuous spring, back / into the shadows’ for this is always a fleeting moment and mental conjuring is not for everyone:
You didn’t catch her?
Well, there are always losses and gains
as with any fishing expedition.
It requires a certain leap of your own
to jump out of one world
and into another.
Sometimes, we are told, it is just ‘A Matter of Persistence’: again, the conditions must be propitious, light and weather being a recurring feature in this collection: ‘aftermath of rain’, ‘certain slant of streetlight’. So the lads in the poem become merged with the superstitious young vigilantes in ‘Familiar’, the ones who drowned Dom Perlet’s diabolical cat. In this poem, the black cat is reincarnated, struggling ‘for days and decades / until this evening’s new constellation – lynx’, and the mind picks up its half-presence, tenuous but real enough to acquire the charge of a ghost story. The way the poem moves rapidly from observation, to narrative, to conversation – ‘just an illusion’, scoffs the taller one to his staring friend’, is very much indicative of the poet’s own attempt to break into the reader’s world, pointing at that ‘bristling, vivid, green-eyed / density’, which is so clearly visible to her that she wants to gift us a glimpse of it, as if lifting the veil onto some other world.
That this kind of seeing is bitter-sweet, making one subject to suffering and vulnerability, is also a thematic concern. The man in ‘The Glass Delusion’ has to protect his glass-body from breaking; in this reading, he is not merely a self-absorbed individual who forgets his duty towards the society where he belongs, but an artistic soul who has to live with the terror of isolation; he is a fragile presence made alien and invisible as a result of his heightened sensibility: ‘though you see right through me / like the glass in that window, I remain invisible?’ It is why the poem is followed by ‘Pareidolia’, the tendency to perceive a meaningful image in an apparently random visual pattern; it is these seers who carry within them apocalyptic fears of otherworldly proportions so that even the setting sun becomes a metaphor for a collapsing world: ‘the arc / of the sun, in the silent moment / before the plummet’.
What this kind of vision entails is a keen awareness of otherness in all its forms, not least its political ramifications. The fisher cat, together with his owner, the alchemist canon, might lend themselves to contemporary migrant narratives because they also represent whatever seems foreign or alien to a particular society; the vigilantes may be an expression of the callousness or cowardice with which we destroy that which we fear, particularly when it appears strange or uncanny. In ‘I is Not Always Me’, winner of the 2015 Poets Meet Politics competition, the female speaker is an immigrant and a victim of racism, but what hurts her the most is the erosion of her own identity because of the violence of linguistic imposition:
In Advanced, we talk about erosion,
cliffs giving way, landing in the sea.
I think of how a foreign language percolates your own
until its idioms even permeate your dreams;
that’s not acquisition, but erosion too.
The speaker is very much like a poet, safeguarding the silence inside her head, seeking the tranquillity of river banks, recuperating her primal language from the flotsam of loss. If McGlinchey too is a migrant and lifelong traveller, then she can better understand what it is to live in so many places and never to belong, a theme which is played out in ‘Blink’, where no house is a home. Moreover, she is less prone to judgment when confronted with difference or seemingly bizarre behaviour. In fact, in ‘Holy War, the speaker could very much be Joan of Arc, ‘traitor, heretic, idolater’ who refuses to ‘betray’ her Voices, just like the poet who has to conjure the voices of others in order to sing variously in couplets, tercets, sonnets, villanelles, free verse and a variety of structural possibilities. Because the language she uses is so multi-referential, the title and the conclusion of the poem may remind readers of all those others, the suicide bombers, for instance, who, like the Maid of Orleans, are utterly convinced of salvation through martyrdom and self-sacrifice:
Though thick stone walls, I hear the bells again,
lifting me beyond this earthly fear. Like death,
my fate is certain, and Paradise awaits!
This is a writer who, like Karen Blixen (who features in the epigraph to ‘Contact’), can truly understand why ‘God and the Devil are one’; it is this subversive destabilization of a well-established dichotomy that allows her to play with language in the way she does, albeit a bit too madly at times, as in ‘Fin de Siècle’ where the speaker can ‘tweak’ God ‘out of you / like Medusa’s hairbrush snarl’, but alluringly enough to keep us engaged in her unique poetic language. It is in poems like ‘Sonnet in B Major’ that the powerful rhythm and oomph of her language are most apparent. As readers, we must hold our breath and accept the speaker’s invitation to Promethean courage, doing ‘magic, like feral creatures turning quick to a language,’ which is full of auditory energy:
A wet black semi-quaver opening up
the fanatic eye of an arbitrary Icarus.
Oh, these bells. But I digress.
If we must die, ingloriously, let’s first
rise up like snakes from the monumental pit.
This review originally appeared in Issue 58 of Ofi Literary Magazine, edited by Jack Little.
I’m doing an inventory of my poetry books in anticipation of preparing my writing room for a tenant who’ll be moving in while we move to Zimbabwe for a few months. In honour of International Women’s Day, I thought I’d do a roll call of the female poets on my shelves: the 178 full collections and chapbooks together are the works of 148 poets (damn, I bet I have one or two lurking elsewhere in the house…) I picked up most of these books at festivals, as well as a few gems at the Time Travellers’ Bookshop and also the Salmon Poetry Bookshop in Ennistymon, which has a great second-hand section; a number were sent to me for review too. Another favourite bookshop is the Book Stór in Kinsale.
Each of these poets has been an inspiration in one way or another, and I just wanted to say thank you! Here are the names:
Angela T. Carr
Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh
Bethany W. Pope
Breda Wall Ryan
Carol Ann Duffy
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Ingrid de Kok
Lo Kwa Mei-en
Maya Catherine Popa
Nuala Ní Chonchúir
Nuala Ní Dhomnhnaill
Renée Sarjini Saklikar
Rita Ann Higgins
Sandra Ann Winters
Susan Millar du Mars
Suji Kwok Kim
Ulrikka S. Gernes
It’s quite terrifying, I’ve discovered, writing a memoir, especially as I’m attempting to write it in the form of prose poetry. A concern is crossing a line in terms of family loyalty. How to accommodate their right to privacy while telling my own story? One way, of course, is to change almost all the names. I’m also keeping the dateline vague. Wish me luck!
Thrilled and excited to have been awarded an Arts Council bursary, which will enable me to travel to Zimbabwe and South Africa to research and write my next book. I leave next week! I plan to keep a reading record and a weekly journal, describing my two-month trip. I had been feeling some trepidation about returning to a country in a state of economic crisis, but now that there’s an atmosphere of jubilation and hope about future prospects, I can’t wait. As Aristotle said, ‘There is always something new coming out of Africa.’ Let’s see.
Good Friday (Part III of a poem sequence titled The Sun King)
The sun, as always, sets just off the stone-rubble
of Connemara, dragging with it the dark from
just beyond Mars, drowning all the fuchsia-clogged
lanes of childhood summer evenings out along
and Clifden also topples into the dark,
only its rooftops visible in the moonlight, like
the jellyfish that cobbled the coast’s warm beaches
and across which we step once more into the hotel
hallway where you once lead the four of us
to look at the photographs on the wall of
Alcock and Brown who made that first Trans-Atlantic
flight in what looked like a homemade aeroplane of
lashed together tarpaulin, travelling sightlessly
through the Atlantic night.
Some morning saw us rumbling
towards the flaming pyre of the sun as it coloured
the inside of the plane the yellows of the gorse
that smells of the cheap macaroon bars that you
loved so much, talking about Little Richard, Jerry
Lee Lewis and Midfield Generals,
and in this ford of your memories
I realised that someday the same Dark Bull would
trample free of its stall and come snorting
across the sea of clouds, coming ashore in the weakening
Yet, I have seen you now as a man,
a youth, a young boy, and when all our collective
years have slipped from us, drip by slow-slow drip,
and lie pooled in the universe’s stilled dark silence,
the spaces where we sat or walked or talked
will remain, like hollowed-out ghost forms,
waiting for some future sun to nest in their
wide, bridging arms.
From the collection, What the Wolf Heard (Shearsman Books)
John FitzGerald is Ireland’s new rising star. He was announced as the 2014 Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Competition winner the same week he was shortlisted for the Hennessy Emerging Poet Award. And my money’s on him winning. His work is always exhilarating and unexpected, due to his extensive travels and seemingly inexhaustible depth and breadth of knowledge. Naturally, he’s the main librarian, at University College, Cork. He was also commended in the 2014 Gregory O’Donoghue Prize and longlisted in the 2014 UK National Poetry Competition and in the 2014 Fish Poetry Prize. Here are the poems that appeared in the Irish Times this week. Watch this space.
Curiosité – un Regard Moderne
The latest Sotheby’s email sale announcement proclaims the chance to obtain a pair of Aepyornis maximus (Elephant Bird) eggs, an exceptional complete Moa (Megalapteryx didinus) [sic] skeleton, or even a collection of Nô masks: ‘Get the last of your eggs, bones n masks’ you can almost hear the criers proclaim at the gates of the chateau in Dampierre of the impecunious latter-day Duc de Luynes.
There’s a place on the Dublin-Cork line where woodland opens out to fields within the wood – two or three, irregular in shape and secretive in their deep surround, unperturbed by the sudden pulsing passing-by of trains. And then they’ve gone. I always seem to lift my eyes at just this point in the journey, signalled by some animus of field and its possession of me since a child, for all the fields I have traversed and loved and lost.
Táimse in aimsir ag an mBás,
eadrainn tá coinníollacha tarraichthe.
Réitíomair le chéile are feadh tréimhse is spás
aimsire, achar roinnt bliana is lae mar a cheapas-sa.
Bhuaileas leis ag margadh na saoire.
D’iarr sé orm an rabhas hire-áilte.
‘Is maith mar a tharla; máistir ag lorg cailín
is cailín ag lorg máistir.’
Ní rabhas ach in aois a naoi déag
nuair a chuas leis are dtúis faoi chonradh.
Do shíneas mo láimh leis an bpár
is bhí sé láithreach ina mhargadh.
Do chuir sé chrúcaí im’ lár
cé nar thug sé brútáil ná drochíde orm.
Ba chosúla le greas suirí nó grá
an caidreamh a bhí eadrainn.
Is tugaim a tháinte dubha chun abhann,
buaibh úd na n-adharca fada.
Luíonn siad síos i móinéir.
Bím á n-aoireacht ar chnoic san imigéin
atá glas agus féarach.
Seolaim are imeall an uisce iad
is gaibheann siad scíth agus suaimhneas.
Treoraím lem’ shlat is lem’ bhachall iad
trí ghleannta an uaignis.
Is siúlaim leo suas ar an ard
mar a mbíonn sciollam na móna le blaiseadh acu
is tagann míobhán orm i mbarr an mháma
nuair a chím faid mo radhairc uaim ag leathadh
a thailte is méid a ríochta,
an domhan mór ba dhóigh leat faoina ghlaic aige
is cloisim sa mhodardhoircheacht bhróin
na hanamnacha ag éamh is ag sioscadh ann.
Is tá sé féin saibhir thar meon.
Tá trucailí óir agus seoda aige.
Ní bheadh I gcarn airgid Déamair
ach cac capaill suas leo.
Ó táimse in aimsir ag an mbás,
is baolach ná beidh mé saor riamh uaidh.
Ní heol dom mo thuarastal ná mo phá
nó an bhfaighidh mé pá plaic’ nó cead aighnis uaidh.
My Dark Master
Translated by Paul Muldoon
I’ve gone and hired myself out, I’ve hired myself out to Death.
We drew up a contract and set the seal
on it by spitting in our palms. I would go with him
for a year and a day—at least, that was the deal
as I remember it. When I met him at the hiring-fair
he inquired if I’d yet
been taken: ‘What a stroke of luck,’ he declared,
‘when a master who’s set on a maid finds a maid who’s set
on a master.’ I was only nineteen years old
at the time the bargain was struck.
I made my mark on a bit of paper and was indentured
on the spot. What a stroke of luck,
I declare, what a stroke of luck that I fell
into his clutches. Not, I should emphasize again,
that he meddled with or molested me for, to tell
you the truth, our relationship was always much more akin
to walking out, or going steady. I lead his blue-black cows
with their fabulously long horns
to water. They lie down in pastures of clover and fescue
and Lucerne. I follow them over hills faraway and green.
I lead them down beside Lough Duff
where they find rest and where they are restored.
I drive them with my rod and my staff
through the valleys of loneliness. Then I might herd
them to a mountain-pass, to a summit
where they browse on bog-asphodel and where I, when I
look down, get somewhat dizzy. His realm extends as far as the eye
can see and beyond, so much so
a body might be forgiven for thinking the whole
world’s under his sway. Particularly after the sough-sighs
of suffering souls
from the darkness. He himself has riches that are untold,
coming down as he is with jewels and gems.
Even John Damer of Shronel, even his piles of gold
would be horse-shit compared to them.
I’ve hired myself out to death. And I’m afraid that I’ll not
ever be let go. What I’ll have at the end of the day
I’ve absolutely no idea, either in terms of three hots and a cot
íor if I’ll be allowed to say my say.