A Saturday Woman Poet, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.

Mo Mháistir Dorcha.

le Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.

Táimse in aimsir ag an mbás
eadrainn tá coinníollacha tairrice
réitíomair le chéile ar 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 ar dtúis faoi chonradh.
Do shíneas mo laímh leis an bpár
is bhí sé láithreacha ina mharghadh.

Do chuir sé a chruacaí in lár
cé nar thug sé brútail ná drochíde orm.
Ba chosúla le greas suirí nó grá
an caidreamh a bhí eadrainn.

Is tugam a tháinte dubha chun abhann,
buaibh ud na n-adharca fada.
Luíonn siad sios i móinéir.
Bím á n-aoireacht ar chnoc san imigéin
atá glas agus féarach.

Seolaim ar imeall an uisce iad
is gaibheann siad scíth agus suaímhneas.
Treoraím lem shlat is lem bhacall iad
trí ghleannta an uaigneas .

from :  Poetry, Contemporary Irish poetry  Oct-Nov 1995. Ed Chris Agee.

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.