Lies is a selection of Irish poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s Irish language poems, with facing English translations by the poet herself
When does a poem tell the truth? When is it a lie? In Lies, intimate moments carefully re-appraised (first dates, break ups, young parenthood, etc.) are the raw material of these vivid and wholly engaging poems, written in Irish, and translated here by the author – a process that itself raises questions about poetry and truth.
But a great deal of the power of Ní Ghríofa’s work comes from the way her personal history links her to the wider world – to the imaginative encounters that prompt so many of the poems, to an acute awareness of the restless nature of language itself, and not least to the women who preceded her and who remain a steadying and guiding presence throughout.
“[Ní Ghríofa] achieves the feat of making us look again at the usual and illuminating its pulsating strangeness. She is a brilliant addition to the distinguished succession of bilingual poets writing in Irish and English.”
— Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Ireland Professor of Poetry
Le Tatú a Bhaint
Shíl mé nach mbeadh ann ach go scriosfaí thú
sa tslí chéanna go gcuirfeadh gasúr grainc air féin
ag breathnú dó ar chóipleabhar breac le botúin,
á shlánú in athuair lena ghlantóir:
bhí dul amú orm.
Nuair a baineadh d’ainmse de mo chraiceann,
bhris na léasair an tatú ina mílte cáithníní líocha.
Shúigh mo chorp do dhúch scoilte, scaoilte. Anois,
is doimhne fós ionam siollaí d’ainm, táid daite im’ chealla;
táim breac leat.
Tá tú laistigh díom anois – caillte, dofheicthe.
Mé féin is tú féin, táimidne do-dhealaithe.
I thought they would simply delete you,
as a child might find an error in homework,
frown, lift a pink eraser, and rub it out.
I was wrong. Everything’s worse now.
To take your name from my skin, lasers
split it into a million particles of pigment.
My flesh bled, absorbing that broken ink,
letting your name fall deeper still. Sink.
Sink. Sunk. Now, you’re stuck
in there, wedged somewhere in my innards’
disarray, between my arteries, my shame,
my quivering veins, and I, I must live
with your syllables, smashed, astray.
OK, OK. If you’re inside me now, lost,
invisible, it’s my fault. I’m sorry,
it was me who made us indivisible.