The Pushing of the Celts

Jonathan Locke Hart

a fragment of a lost manuscript, written Spring 2009,
Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, excavated years later

1. I have been

I have been

We have been all pushed

To the west rim

They have drummed and stolen

Our tongue. These poems are for those

Who drove us

The bards lost to a time with no poetry

These words

Are an excavation

A late tongue time has given us

In mutation with the spaces

Where peoples moved like the wind.

2. Chomh haosta leis an gceo

Chomh haosta leis an gceo

As old as the mist

We are, hanging on western

Mountains, pushed into the sea

Almost, gasping, our tongue

As we are driven, starved,

Left to die. The tribes from south,

And east came

Our tongues

Died slowly, in shambles,

Tatters, buried in the peat, bog after bog.

We are the mist rising in the morning

Burnt off in the sun

Unseen at night.

3. Chomh ata le frog sa bhfómhar

Chomh ata le frog sa bhfómhar

I am as swollen as a frog in autumn

My words are as bloated after

A long summer, and winter is almost

Come, like a lover who has spilt too much

On a ground grown fallow. The air

Is full of bombast: I have sucked

In my share, boasted like a warrior

Before battle.

The danger when the leaves

Turn is when the day grows

Still, I will puff up and explode.

4. Chomh balbh le trumpa gan teanga

Chomh balbh le trumpa gan teanga

Like a trumpet without a tongue

I will call so the walls do not

Come tumbling down. No one

Will hear me, my mute call,

Along the watch-tower,

Might fall music

To the night, escape the corners

Of my mouth, wet the dry blood

Encrusted there. Some proclaim

In a dark rain

This is the language of silence.

5. Chomh cantalach le mála easóg

Chomh cantalach le mála easóg

As bad-tempered as a sack of weasels

I am when you seize my land

Do not be astonished that I snap

And bite your hand, you starve me,

My children wizened as corn-stalk

Drying in the droughting sun.

Conquerors come and go

But do damage in the meantime

Yes, it is a mean time. You take up

Our names and erase them

With our myths.

And the winter rain would fall

And the summer sun would burn

The mist undone, in this no Celtic twilight.

6. Chomh cinnte le sioc

Chomh cinnte le sioc

As certain as frost

Death will come

It will take all of us

The sun will

Fade, and memory

Will go like spring behind.

They took our books,

They forbade our tongue

The fields grew vacant

As they pushed us into the sea

Into green-tongued famine.

The harvest is done

And we are done. The frost

At midnight comes

A frozen touch

To our graves

In the burden of sleep.

[The rest was lost]