Annemarie Ní Churreáin
Self-Portrait as a Fallen Girl, 1921
Father, I come to your altar.
I come with my hands spilling stones.
I come draped in a dunghill shawl.
I come cart-loaded with secrets and covered in blood moons.
I come for the confession.
I come for the pulpit and the sermon.
I come for a rub of the lily in a fine, flint glass.
I come for the hard, oak belly of Jesus on the cross.
I come for the rib, the shin, the nipple, the thigh.
I come to rise the violet bud up out of its sleep
like an undressed soldier, to meet my coming
among the meadow pipits, the tits, the wrens
flitting, cock-sure as mini-gods
in the tossed heather sheets of a salty summer.
I come for the deep swell of women who did not come before me.
I come for their uncome ghosts.
I come for their bodies hungry as grass.
I come out of the archives of hunger,
and I ask that, by this river,
you kneel before me.
What business is it to you? said the girl
who was asked to name the father of her child.
He’s a business man, said the storekeeper
to the draper when he sold him a new, wool tie.
He’s a man who runs a family business, said the draper
leaning across the butchers’ counter
for a better look at the loins.
He’s a family man, said the butcher
pushing aside blood with the back of his hand.
He’s a bloody good man, said the cobbler
drawing down a bolt of leather.
A good man, said the mason
sharpening a blade on a block of stone.
But he was led astray by a difficult girl! said the doctor
suddenly hit by a pang of hunger.
And look what he’s become, said the cook
as the heat rose up like a tongue in the parish stove.
If you dice with sin, you’ll grow a tail and hooves, said the priest
as he tucked a white napkin under his chin.
He cavorts with evil, the priest said that Sunday
in the pulpit
and a voice yelled back
Good for him!
The Handywoman Tends To An Ill Child
Let me unfurl your fist.
I see fields of sweetgrass in your palm, tufts
of bog cotton, like pocket moons
quivering. You are here now, under my watch,
as I draw my breath;
June breath and mountain breath,
breath of fern in the bonfire sky,
breath of the badger’s claw,
breath of the plover’s nest,
a breath to tilt back your chin
and prise a clean thumb in between the gums,
to open up that pit and flower down
into your mouth a silty star.
There, there. The cure of the breath is given,
like a stream of foals passing
through the creaking pines.
ANNEMARIE NÍ CHURREÀN is a poet from the Donegal Gaeltacht, Ireland. Her publications include Bloodroot (Doire Press, 2017), Town (The Salvage Press, 2018) and The Poison Glen (The Gallery Press, 2021). She is a recipient of the Irish Arts Council’s Next Generation Artist Award, a co-recipient of The Markievicz Award and a former literary fellow of Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany). In 2023 she is Writer in Residence at the Druskininkai Poetic Falls Festival, Lithuania. Ní Churreáin is the incoming Poetry Editor of The Stinging Fly. Visit www.studiotwentyfive.com.