Saturday Poem

Through the Speckled Land

She won’t speak to me anymore, this place
my tongue is received with poor grace.

My roots penetrated only so far
and they wither for lack of water.

Salt was spread on the upper scraw
and ploughed through to the lower layer.

She can no longer nourish her brood,
In my own land as a stranger viewed.


On the road between two cities
each of which has two names,
I read the words on the signs.

I am travelling through the speckled land
and every town here has two names.

Claonadh – Clane
Cill Dara – Kildare
Baile Dháith – Littleton
Cúil an tSúdaire – Portarlington

the native name
in italic script
a biased telling of the lore of place
the native name
in the lesser script
a muted telling, in slow fade . . .


As I travel through the speckled land
I move from white to black
my journey is taken aslant
the way I follow is zig-zagged.
I am the knight going the long way round
to attack from behind, to try to confound
but there are castles I can’t assault
and clerics before me, proud and preening,
I can’t protect my own queen even
my road is blocked by lowly pawns.


Between two hues
between two names
between two views
between two words
between two tongues
between two worlds
I live my life
between two lives.

by Colm Breathnach
from An Fearann Breac
publisher: Coiscéim, Dublin, 1982