Neil Slevin is a writer from Co. Leitrim, Ireland whose poetry has been published widely. ‘I Am’ is a section of his work-in-progress chapbook, and inspired by Ireland’s Northwest. Read more of Neil via https://twitter.com/neil_slevin
For all who mined in Arigna
I breathe into you and yours
as you work towards earth’s core
and carry the love you leave behind
on days spent digging for life.
You leave your own
to battle coal, war stone,
smother foes with explosions of rock –
bullets that streak like stars slain by sky –
prostrate under the weight of water,
to drown in sumps, shelter in gob.
Your weapons are not the sword or gun
but clips and caps; hutch a cart for those
mourned only by the foreman’s truce,
their funeral your trek into darkness,
the wounded day’s retreat.
Camouflaged by falling night,
you pause in thanks to Him,
embrace the sanctity of votive light
then let it fade with distance,
wait for dawn.
Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car. — W.B. Yeats
Through the mist-rain you’ll see me
from forest, road or heathered hill.
Though I am surrounded by others,
none fall harder than I.
In the North I rise to descend,
straddle borders of grey ridge and seashell.
I am the residue of Ben Bulben sorrow
on lands still mourning a stolen child.
With my pearls of sadness,
I fill this earthen valley.
My tears echo all who are lost;
grief is a torrent no-one can hold back.
These barite speckled cliffs are a heart
hardened by drought, gnawed at by time.
This moss hair is stroked only
by life’s murdering hand.
My cliff face is so steep
none who climb it survive.
Man’s heartbreak is so deep
there is always water to cry.
The world’s more full of weeping
than I can understand.
The Gaelic Chieftain
With the stars’ raining light
my shadow’s flecked, stars that stream –
tears from the eyes of a crying sky.
Tears that streak the face of night
in grief for what’s long lost; what I alone
have won, I who will not die.
Draped in ebony black
I stand against your darkness,
winds that shriek the curlew’s call.
I know they howl to me of death
but I must not yield to them.
To them I will not fall.
I who ride through time and space,
my horse’s route not road
nor rising hillside.
I, whom all must pass and face
to know my honour
and my pride.
Not even when this battle ends,
daylight reigns and peacetime calls
will I rest. I will outlive the dawn.
I wait for it with sword’s embrace,
my wrath guarding the West.
My war will rage on.