The Bookshelves
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

These are our cliffs, where we hang and grope and slide.
Why should there be a path upwards among such casual
stacks? Somebody shelved them size by size
but still they signal throbbing on shadow types.
Their lightning blazes like a faraway headlight
bound firmly elsewhere. Most times
it’s the finger tucked in the big dictionary that leads
onward (as if under submerged voussoirs, along
damp paving to the ancient reservoir) to tell us
that the jumping flashes on the rockface were the codes
for a name that we could never have otherwise known.


Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash



Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Water has no memory
and you drown in it like a kind of absence.
It falls apart
in a continual death
a hundred-gallon tank as
innocent as outer space.


Earth remembers
facts about your relations;
wood passes on patristic
bone and feather,
charcoal remembering
and every stone recalls its quarry and the axe.

Photo by Victor Malyushev on Unsplash



Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

The payment always has to be in kind;
easy to forget, traveling in safety,
until the demand comes in.

Do not think him unkind, but begin
to search for the stuff he will accept.
It is not made easy:
a salmon, a marten-skin, a cow’s horn,
a live cricket. Ants have helped me
to sort the millet and barley grains.
I have washed bloodstains from the enchanted shirt.

I left home early
walking up the stony bed
of a shallow river, meaning to collect
the breast-feathers of thousands of little birds
to thatch a house and barn.
It was a fine morning, the fields
spreading out on each side
at the beginning of a story,
steam rising off the river.
I was unarmed, the only bird
a lark singing out of reach:
I looked forward to my journey.

Photo by Niranjan Venkatesh on Unsplash