Flash mythology

Embroidery on an old story and a line from a poem by Maya Angelou, His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream.

 

Elatha was no more than shadow. Since the Fomhóire were defeated and his ambitions torn to ribbons, he had gone back to live beneath the wild waves, beyond the black cliffs beaten by the ocean, where his ancestors had arisen from, and the world was the better for it. But Midir stirred up his old ambitions and the ambitions of his son Eochu Bres, the beast, though Brigid would rather his name was never heard again.

Elatha was no more than shadow but Midir gave him substance and he gave Bres a spear, all to kill Oisín who he hated worse than poison. The world hung in the balance, the Isle of Apple Trees waited, the salmon curled in the mud at the bottom of the pool, and the birds of the dead souls fell silence.

Swan women bound two and two by silver chains rose from the lake between the worlds and Oisín watched them fly. In the wind of their passing he heard Niamh whisper, and her voice filled his heart with longing. When Ulatha and his son strode out of the shadows, a thing of mist and murk, the sea muck clinging to their cloaks, he was ready; he had Brigid’s sword and Niamh’s love.

When Bres threw the spear that was not his, and the spear turned back on the thief who threw it, when Ulatha saw his son struck down by his own hand, he uttered a scream that would give nightmares to an unborn child in the womb.

Oisín wielded the words Niamh had taught him and the sword Brigid had forged for him and Ulatha fell back before them all, the bright burning lights that pierced his shadows, fell back to the ocean depths, where none, not even Midir the cunning, would raise him up again.

The swan women circled and settled on the lake, and threw off their feather cloaks. One strode out of the shallows to Oisín, the silver chain in her hands.

“Niamh,” he murmured.

She smiled. “Will you come with me and be bound to me as I will be bound to you? Will you follow where I lead when I know the way, and listen to the silence what I say there is no need for words?”

He took her hands and kissed her face. “I will be bound to you and never look for the key. I am not such a fool that I would challenge your knowledge, and I already know that the silence the birds sing is wiser than any words of mine could ever be.”

So Niamh wrapped the feather cloak about them both and it was as two great swans that they flew out of the world of men forever.

A heart lost at sea

Painting ©Voyen Koreis

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The Sea King’s daughter let him go,

In magic sleep could not resist

Her father’s men, who carried her

Where kelp and deep sea currents flow.

 

I watched them from the cliff top high,

My love go hunting while Clíodhna

Slept in a sleep by magic cast.

He never guessed; no more did I.

 

Ciabhán returned and when he found

Clíodhna gone and where she’d lain

The sand as smooth as was her cheek,

He raged for fear his love had drowned.

 

I took his arm—he had my heart—

And tried to tell him she was gone,

That fairy folk can never love

A mortal; they are doomed to part.

 

He flung himself into the wave,

Not once but nine times cast ashore.

His brothers begged me call him back,

As if my love his life could save.

 

But who can summon love in one

Whose heart is drowned beneath the sea?

The Sea King’s realm is where he’d be,

And I’m forgot; our time is done.

 

Three line tales: Fionn IX

Last episode, appropriately enough, the ninth.

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“No closer, Fionn,” the druid called from the boat where the Fianna were crowded with sullen faces. “I have brought you back to your time, but I cannot bring you back to your place. The Isles of Bliss must be your home forever.”

Fionn watched as the currach disappeared through a wall of mist. The chief of the Fianna would no more lead his men into battle or hunt the white stag. As he turned from the strand the druid’s voice floated to him across the waves.

“When we have need of you, Fionn, we will call, and you will answer.” He knew the meaning of the words. When the world of the otherworld woman met his, the final battle would begin. Fionn would be ready, and he was satisfied.

The Sea comes between them

He beats the waves with useless fists

His little boat tossed back upon the strand.

Still he shouts her name in the storm’s teeth,

The Sea king’s anger brewing black.

Beneath the wave she sleeps now,

Eyes tight closed against the world she tried to leave,

The curlew’s sadness furrows her brow,

Her lips smile at the sweetness of the blackbird’s song,

But her lover’s call is just a fading cry,

Echoing in the sea caves of her dreams.

 

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An Irish poem seems appropriate today. You can read Ali Isaac’s version of Ciodhna’s story in Grá mo Chroí. It’s free from today for three days.

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And the winners are…

Valentine’s Day is upon us, in case you haven’t noticed, and of course, the main event of the day (what you do later in the evening is your own business) is the announcement of the winners of the Grá mo Chroí poetry contest.

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We had a great response and some real little gems of poetry submitted. Nina Loard, poet, editor, and organiser of #fieryverse a tremendous twitter poetry site, very graciously agreed to act as judge. We are especially grateful as she was in the final stages of publishing Neverlasting, her anthology of love poetry.

Here are the three winning poems
1.
Deep water forests
of kelp and the moss
green bones of lost ships:
your city of silence
whose streets I cannot walk.

By Yvonne Marjot ‏@Alayanabeth

2.
She writes her love on the wind
In light upon the water
In the pure line of a tern’s dive
From blue to blue
Reading, he smiles.

By Harriet Goodchild ‏@HMGoodchild

3.
the warship left.

in hawthorn trees
yesterday
he twist a twig ring

now in grief,
hand on the back
of her neck

it became gold.

By John Feaster ‏@JohnFeasterB Feb 9

And four runners up because there were too many good poems to just choose three.

1.
She meets her love by starlight
A shiver & a shimmer
Two swans rise from the black water
By Harriet Goodchild ‏@HMGoodchild

2.
In a howling wind
the hunt goes past,
wild geese in skeins.
Herne himself,
writhing in mist,
shakes his spear
By . Yvonne Marjot ‏@Alayanabeth

3.
Arise with me
Before dawn
Awakens with its golden flame
Alone together
We’ll weave a fire
So bright it puts the sun to shame
By Éilis Niamh ‏@EilisNiamh

4.
Niamh wept emerald tears
for her lover of so many years
she kissed his lips
bid him farewell
the isle of Eire
his death knell
By Merry Maiden ‏@QueenofCups99

Congratulations to the winners and runners up, and many, many thanks to all the poets who entered the contest. I wish everyone could have won.
Thanks to, to Nina Loard, our judge. You can find the Neverlasting: Poetry of Love Lust & Lechery anthology here.
I wish you would—I have three poems in it ☺
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For the few people who haven’t yet got their copy, the Amazon links for Grá mo Chroí are here

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You can find all of Ali Isaac’s books here
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And mine here
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She regrets her foolishness

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The sun was his face and in his hair,
Honey was on his lips,
And the words he told me were full of love,
As the tree was full of wild rose hips.
But he gave away his honeyed words,
As free as birds on the wing,
For any fair face or laughing eyes,
And there were many to hear him sing.
His face is still as handsome,
And his hair still nets up the sun,
But he found another beneath the waves,
And our loving days are done.

Photo credit: Øyvind Holmstad

Emer regrets what is past

Graziella

The girl she was is no more,
Her past, a scattering of driftwood on an empty strand.
He took the easy laughter and the wisdom of her words
And gave her back the same,
Honey-coated and bright as the sun.
But love to him was conquest and nights beneath the stars,
A worthy love was lovely as the moon and wise as the raven,
But his own heart was free to wander as the white stag on the hill.
She knows it, now that all is grey and dull as a winter’s day,
When youth has gone and all that shone in life had died away.
She sees him now for what he is,
His strength, his arms, his face like the sun,
All a borrowing that she has given back.
She turns her face to the sea,
To the billowing restlessness and the gulls’ mockery,
To the ceaseless shifting pattern of light and shadow,
Trying to see the place where her dreams have fled.

Grá mo Chroí : Cover reveal

Unless you’ve been living under a stone for the last few weeks, you will have heard that Ali Isaac and myself have got together a collection of our retellings of some of the great love stories from among the Irish myths. This is the official cover reveal for Grá mo Chroí. Second really because I see Ali was up sometime before dawn in her excitement to blog about it. ☺

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It might seem no big deal to those of you with blockbuster epics under your belt, but we have gone back in time, to the golden age of Irish storytelling, and we have added our own small contribution to the great tradition.
Susan Toy, blogger, writer, and very perspicacious asked, why did we decide to do this? Good question. Why did two writers who have never even met decide to produce a collection of stories that, let’s face it, have already been told many times?
The easy part of the answer is that if your roots lie in Ireland, you will know that the myths and stories you were brought up with are at least as true as the Magna Carta and the Wars of the Roses. We are dealing with real people who have landmarks named after them and local legends associated with them.
Both Ali and I are familiar with some of the versions of these stories and have had great fun researching some of the versions we didn’t know. Because unlike the Wars of the Roses, for which there is a fine, blow by blow account, the Irish stories have had so many interpretations that some have been tempted to doubt they happened at all, incredible as that may seem!
The Christian monks wrote down the first versions. Their ecclesiastical superiors disapproved and made them do it again with saints instead of sinners. Fiery Brigid becomes a nun, and Saint Patrick sticks his oar in wherever it’s humanly possible.
But if you dig deep enough, dump the Christian misogynist overtones, you get some beautiful stories, full of real people with real, modern emotions. Irish love stories are not soppy and they are rarely about rescuing damsels in distress. There is almost always blood shed, wars waged, and the damsel is as likely to be waving a sword about as she is to be cowering behind the battlements.
For a writer who loves the poetry in words, these retellings are pure self-indulgence. For a reader who enjoys reading a bit of prose mixed in with their poetry, these stories are for you. Our gift to you for Valentine’s Day, especially for those with a drop of Irish blood in their veins, hoping to rekindle a dormant passion.

Although Grá mo Chroí isn’t released until February 11th you can pre-order a copy at
Amazon UK
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