top of page

Oisín in Tír na nÓg

by kathryn boudouris


What is creation in a place without time?

Two moments balanced like stones in an arch,

each one needing the other. Here:

the firmament swoons as he finds Niamh’s gaze,

steady as a pole star circled by strange constellations;

and there: a boy with her eyes—ice clear, yew green—

too young to grasp the mystery where the sky curves

past the sea, builds mountains and ravines in the tide.

Two moments, two loves, both of them always existing.

The sun in its steadiness reveals the nature of the place:

The child never grows old, his father never dies;

each wave touches the shore and slides back to the beginning.


The beginning:

She came to the forest like morning—

first an inkling of light, then signs of the burgeoning day:

Gold-tinged eddies troubling the mist, blackbirds yawping

as they leapt from the thickets, the quivering dogs on point.

When Niamh and her steed appeared in the glen, the field shifted

and he saw how it all had been poised there,

waiting for the moment to arrive.

The sea as they crossed contained every possibility—

solid as the rock of the cliffs, empty as the air below. Glancing back, he saw the shore slip away like a wave retreating.


In Tír na nÓg, the days revolve: Dawn unveils

an endless equinox—the slant of light unchanging,

joy and sorrow evenly divided. All the wonders

of his life, his children and his bold, prismatic wife,

depend on separation from home. Amidst a spring tide

of blossoms that never go to seed, maddened

by the gently droning bees, he craves the wildness

of the hunt, the cheerful friendship of his brothers.

The bees confide: Our wing-song is the rhythm of eternal life.

In its turn, the moon draws out his deepest yearning: Not just to live

forever, but to live together with all he loves. He does not yet see

that for mortals, the land of reunion is the land of the dead.


What is the end in a place without death?

A parting just as certain: Two destinies dividing

like forks of an ancient ravine. For safe passage,

Niamh whispers to calm the restless sea,

and he steadies himself on the back of the steed.

Yet his promise to return brings a sadness to her eyes,

like a pebble making ripples in a well—and in Ireland, a stone

lies waiting to reveal how in the surging course of time,

a life can pass scarcely, then all at once.


Image by Bree Anne
bottom of page