Friday, July 10, 2009

Ostpolitik, a poem by Eugene O’Connell.

Eugene O’Connell was born in West Cork. He’s a primary school teacher by profession and had published four books of poetry. He’s the editor of The Cork Literary Review and this poem is from his latest book, Diviner, published by Three Spires Press.

Irish folklore has many stories about strong, independent women, most of them with sad endings, and this is no exception. Deirdre of the Sorrows is perhaps the foremost tragic heroine in Irish mythology. She was so beautiful, all the kings wanted her. She met, fell in love with, and eloped with Naoise, a handsome young warrior, hunter and singer. Accompanied by his two brothers, they fled to Scotland, but wherever they went the local king would try to kill Naoise and his brothers so he could have Deirdre. Eventually they all went to live on a remote island. However, the king of Ulster tracked them down and offered them safe conduct home. When they returned, he had her brothers killed and insisted that Deidre marry him. But although he possessed her body, she gave him nothing else. He realized that she’d never love him so he gave her away to one of his warriors. Deirdre subsequently committed suicide by hanging out of her chariot and dashing her head against the rocks.

Ostpolitik by Eugene O’Connell (after a 9th Century Irish story).

Deidre put her eye on Naoise
A young fellow of her own age
Who let on to be immune to her charms.
‘Heifers pine where there’s no bull,’ she said.
‘You have the mother of all bulls at home,’ he said,
Meaning Laoghaire, the elder, she was promised to.
‘I’d go for a strapping lad if I had choice,’
She said, eying the full length of him.
‘No can do,’ said Naoise, quoting something
From Cathbad the shaman of his own tribe.
Miffed at the lame excuse, she caught him
By the ears and lifted him off the ground.
‘Unless you want to be an earless mute,
The talk of the western world, you’ll marry me.’
‘Right so,’ he said, once the color drained
Back into the ashen lobes.

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