The Architectural Metaphor

By Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Read by Venetia Bowe

The guide in the flashing cap explains
The lie of the land.
The buildings of the convent, founded

Here, a good mile on the safe side of the border
Before the border was changed,
Are still partly a cloister.

This was the laundry. A mountain shadow steals
Through the room, shifts by piles of folded linen.
A radio whispers behind the wall:

Since there is nothing that speaks as clearly
As music, no other voice that says
Hold me I'm going…so faintly,

Now light scatters, a door opens, laughter breaks in,
A young girl barefoot, a man pushing her
Backwards against the hatch—

It flies up suddenly—
There lies the foundress, pale
In her funeral sheets, her face turned west

Searching for the rose-window. It shows her
What she never saw from any angle but this:
Weeds nested in the churchyard, catching the late sun,

Herself at fourteen stumbling downhill
And landing, and crouching to watch
The sly limbering of the bantam hen

Foraging between gravestones—
                                                                         Help is at hand
Though out of reach:
                                                The world not dead after all.


*Selected for the 2022 Bloomsday Film Festival*
*Selected for the 2022 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival*

Directed by Matthew Thompson.

Part of the second Coole Park Poetry Series, co-produced with Druid and curated by Colm Tóibín.

By kind permission of the author and The Gallery Press, Loughcrew, Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland from Collected Poems (2020).