First Collection By Eithne Lannon
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- Eithne Lannon - Music by Dave McCune
- Eithne Lannon
- Eithne Lannon
- Eithne Lannon
At noon, the air is bone,
a chill wind looping from Ardgillan hill
to Barnageeragh cove; the sea, all metal-creased
and craggy, grim rock and knuckled furrow
bound by the forced intimacies of a harsh tide.
Beyond the headland, waves reel in from the ocean,
foam flicked from high-curled tips. Like frayed
chokers, collars of churned froth circle grey boulders,
water courses through frenzied rock-veins.
Here and there, seagulls ply the buffeting gusts,
while out along the wooden stair a keening wind
wails down the cliff-face, as though a funnel
has been worn into the air.
She stands at the water’s edge, untroubled
by the turbulence; slender feet slide
through curdling hiss, ease
her into the surging froth, the urgent sea
a strange calling; she wants to wash
the drought out of her body, quench
her skin in the bitter swell.
She kicks out to the heart-racing heave,
kelp and straggle weed slapping her ribs
and she is caught in the roiling motion,
the grip of the ocean grasping her limbs,
her stung face, flung sea-spray sharp
and piercing. Pulled beneath
the riven surface, her throat salt-raw and rasping,
she is pressed inside the spreading silence.
In the distance boat spines creak, gannets shake
their gangly necks, rinse bladed beaks in icy water.
Lady’s Stairs background information
In November 1853 Louisa Augusta Connolly, Baroness of Langford, was visiting the Taylor family of Ardgillan Castle. She was a strong swimmer and decided to go for a swim in nearby Barnageeragh cove, also owned at the time by the Taylors. In poor conditions, she was pulled out to sea and tragically drowned. Lady Louisa now haunts the castle and the nearby ‘Lady’s Stairs’.
She has become know as ‘The white Lady’ for the all-white dress she appears in to those lucky, or unlucky enough, to encounter her ghostly spirit.
It starts at noon, a seedling beginning, wind
unspooling in quiet fury, first swells swift
and flowing; the bow is angled to an awkward tilt,
broad hips held on a wide wave peak,
clouds are ploughing through acres of sky
as she teeters blindly on a rising ridge-
and they say death by drowing is simple,
like a silk cloth gliding to the ocean floor-
these men were desperate, their fear lunging
from the frantic yawl to the dense harbour wall
and no one can reach them. Fingers latched
to harsh braided ropes, arctic biting
through bloodied fists. The savage energy,
the primal roar, raw surf heaving
on cold crushed lumbs, the sea-soaked
plunge beneath –
A dream speaks to him.
Or perhaps he knew the currents well,
how they travelled, rippling beach
the tide’s attention, fast and frantic
as someone drowning; that veined ripple
is a gnarled hand, the crimpled waves,
a vertebrae of broken spine.
This night, the shift of lunar tides and a ghost
within him stirs. He sees the gaping mouth
of Smuggler’s cave, the body, stranded.
First light and he finds him there,
Christy, strewn at the cliff base;
it’s cold here, so hard to breathe,
his heart beats wildly
as he stoops to the face – the bewildered
stare, familiar sill, in its broken state.
Come with me
to the sea-green morning
the early mist
has slipped me into itself
to the inside of stillness
where everything I know to be true
begins to alter shape,
to waver in a downy blend of pink
and palest green
The ordinary sky,
Once so clear and large
has left the land and sea,
curled the flat horizon to drifts
off urrowed silk.
The island dome is softly veiled,
the Martello, vanished
without a sound.
Now the haze begins
its slow burn upwards, light
pulling clouds apart
I think of how darkness loses
itself to dawn,
how everything is overtaken
in its own passing.
The sky lifts. I sit
in the silence
as though it were my hand
had tossed the light
over the rim of dawn,
as though it were my heart
unwrapping its true and tender self
from the luminous sea.
Gulls dive and glide, graze
white-edged wavelets, tipsy
ina slight giddy wind
and the gentle scupper of
open and idling
as peach-glazed light begins
its sunset descent, low wisps
of cloud stretching
a scallop-stained sky,
the swept horizon
lazing now on earth’s hazy
in its loose-knitted mesh,
while someone on the shoreline
is fishing, silhouette
into the silt of twilight.
Everything gathers light;
sea-sprey slicing air, slick
of ell-grass over green-laced rock,
spindrift breezing, and in the distance,
the sun rolls down Lambay’s shiver
of strand, rituals of ocean, their rhythms
and spills, the kayak’s foam-cuffed
trail now a vein of vanishing
ripples. Wave-pleats fold
and crease, while out
along the horizon, the pause
of settled light, brightness honed
to a scalpel,
and the whole world curves
to meet the cleave
of a sea-gull’s wing.
At dawn, the field is bereft
you rest with your face pressed
against the earth, grit warm on your cheek.
A pale soak of sun speckles the trees,
horses stand among the dandelions
and feathered thistles gone to seed; death,
like a fine mist, sits on a knife-edged sky
as though something beautiful were about to
The big guns are coughing and smacking
their shells; I’m calm, though desperately
anxious to live.
You stay with your troop, marooned in rank
mortars whine and fall. All around, woods
are lush with leafy indifference; warm wind
streams through thin grasses; far off, inside,
a new desolation.
Morning slips into afternoon. Waiting;
fear sears through your body like a burning
wick. At the eye of the bombardment,
a slim shaft of silence,
then the whistles’ signal –
over the top, the push and stagger; bullets,
mortar, shrapnel, and you are spun, chest punctured,
backwards, pulse lurching, the reach
of your breath clutching. Emptiness
swamps your belly, rib-cage
a bind of tangled leavings;
lonely harbour of the body,
senses sinking, mind unmooring. You think
of all the things you have not loved enough,
steady footstep of your life’s dwelling,
living roots you’ve kept; wife and daughter,
Copper light catches the hazy air, wind tones
play in slender trees, in the soft prison
of your fingers’ grip, leaf-shadows shift.
It was not his absence
but what cameafter; how silence begins
as a hollow, a hesitation, a shift
in the gravity of meaning,
like a minor chord progression,
a decrescendo that lingers.
There were movements in it,
subtle sounds insinuated,
the ambivalence of harmony
abbreviated , how the bass clef
can become a closed listening,
an ear no longer ajar.
I can barely hear the voice
of his fading frequency, the slow tearing
into tonal extinction. Even the light is too
loud for the symphony of silence
I now live in, there’s a gaping
matrix, a dark place I slide into,
I have felt his ghost spread
into the shape of the space around me,
at the edge of erasue-
now I know how a man can die
Cadence & For a dream background information
Andrew Kettle was born in Drynam House, Feltrim, in September 1833. He was one of the founders of the Land League movement along with Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt.
He died on 16th September, 1916, (it’s believed, of a broken heart), a week after learning of his son’s death at Ginchy, the Battle of the Somme.
His son, Tom Kettle was a founding member of the Irish Volunteers and was also a Memeber of Paliament, a barrister, soldier and poet.
I have waited through the long winter grey
for the clean curve of spring,
the sun a warm breath on my neck,
its lips glossed with a damp breeze.
Far below, murmurings of wind and water
weave a familiar braid of intimacy,
the whole of the blue sky is stretched wide,
lights fall on us – silver spread on sand.
This moment is already time’s fugitive;
sweet rain pooled in a dockweed’s leafy
pocket, the soft unwrapping of downy buds,
moss gathered in a hollowed bowl of earth –
like a container that holds and pours,
we are filled and emptied.
To be lifted then into the loose hem of the breeze, cast out
over the spooling cliff to drop
like a bird, free-fall into the wind.
The sea carries in her dranched bones
the memory of so many moons
cast and re-cast onto dropping ridges,
their scarred slipping layers.
A light pebble hiss splinters the shore,
wind -grains drift through an hourglass shell,
sand creases pleat and unpleat,
dip into small sea lagoons –
pools left behind in the ebb of the tide,
the ebb of the day.