David Rowe

David Rowe





Irish iconographers knew
not to dilute the brute impact,
they understood
that to portray hair & breasts,
eyelashes & all the rest, would
serve only to eroticize & distract
from the sublime fact
of her
that yawning yonic
gorgon’s grimace
which doesn’t turn victims to mute
stone so much
as swallow
our ardor & transmute
its embers
into so
much embryonic

Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney


Sheelagh na Gig



Sheelagh na Gig
at Kilpeck




We look up at her
hunkered into her angle
under the eaves.


She bears the whole stone burden
on the small of her back and shoulders
and pinioned elbows,


the astute mouth, the gripping fingers
saying push, push hard,
push harder.


As the hips go high
her big tadpole forehead
is rounded out in sunlight.


And here beside her are two birds,
a rabbit’s head, a ram’s,
a mouth devouring heads.




Her hands holding herself
are like hands in an old barn
holding a bag open.


I was outside looking in
at its lapped and supple mouth
running grain.


I looked up under the thatch
at the dark mouth and eye
of a bird's nest or a rat hole,


smelling the rose on the wall,
mildew, an earthen floor,
the warm depth of the eaves,


and then one night in the yard
I stood still under heavy rain
wearing the bag like a caul.




We look up to her,
her ring-fort eyes,
her little slippy shoulders,


her nose incised and flat,
and feel light-headed looking up.
She is twig-boned, saddle-sexed,


grown up, grown ordinary,
seeming to say,
‘Yes, look at me to your heart’s content


but look at every other thing.’
And here is a leaper in a kilt,
two figures kissing,


a mouth with sprigs,
a running hart, two fishes,
a damaged beast with an instrument.