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 to Lateeve 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.
I place my hope on the water
in this little boat
of the language, the way a body might put
in a basket of intertwined
its underside proofed
with bitumen and pitch,
then set the whole thing down amidst
and bulrushes by the edge
of a river
only to have it borne hither and thither,
not knowing where it might end up;
in the lap, perhaps,
of some Pharaoh’s daughter.
translated from the Irish by Paul Muldoon