Poem Published In Dempsey & Windle Newsletter 115 4/10 2021

Abhanian na Sláne

High in Wicklow’s Lugulla Mountain you were born
slipping to life, they named you after Sláne,
son of the First High King, whose sword
welded Leninster in being. You scroll your way
from your birth rock nestled by fey trees, lush farms:
the towns: Ballincorty, Enniscorthy, Tullow, Ballinglass
— I know them well —
rising stronger, wider till you fall to Wexford, die in the sea.

You are a symbol of life, Slaney as they call you now
in that tongue he never spoke, yet still holds meaning:
you are the river of health and wholeness; something
we seek but never find in these times as the earth cries;
even the trout, the salmon do not rise as one they did.

I played upon your banks, learned the art of tickling trout
and crossed you every time to visit old family places,
my mother’s trip to lay flowers on her parents’ grave.
We’d gather round the fire in my Aunt’s long house,
swam your waters as at Rosslaire where they met the sea .

Now in a foreign place I see you framed on a wall,
the Forth Mountain rising above your wide waters,
and  catch your eye as he did when he swam ashore.
I’m once again in Sláne’s arms immersed in those times:
with those people now gone, healed by your waters —
my being, soul returned to strength, to wellness.

Carolyn O’Connell


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