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Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s ‘The Pastoral Life’ from her Collected Poems is our Poem of the Month for February 2021.Cover Collected Poems by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin


The Pastoral Life

You remember how often we stopped
at that corner house to drink lemonade in the kitchen
and cycled on down to the harbour
the breeze filling our skirts

But years later I passed their door,
suddenly taking the mountain road.
I laboured up between rocks
until when I turned east to the plain I heard

the corncrake in the shining grass.
The horses froze in troops of seven or eight
and a dull sound carried all that distance,
the bells around the necks of the leaders.

Will I ever go back? After the years I spent there
depending on idleness that never let me down —
I waited for the wind to blow hairs in at my door
carrying the story of the breed, for the right light
to show up the printing of muscle under the hide?
Could I go back after vesting my years

and leaving just once in November until the spring
when I found the plain blackened by fire
and staggered over bones too heavy for me to bury,

— like finding a friend’s ashes evenly shed
on the open page of a book?
I hear now, and believe it,
the grass has grown back,
the horses are breeding there again.


                                                          by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
                                      from Collected Poems (October 2020)
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