“Love Leitrim” – Poetry by Monica Corish, inspired by the pages of the Observer

editorial image
From my school room window

From my school room window

I heard the sea soothe and rage over Carraig na Gréine,

saw the sun rise scarlet over thorny Dalkey Island.

Nine years ago I travelled west, chose Leitrim’s skinny coastline:

Bundoran for sea­walks and swimming; Sligo for poetry;

the rest of Leitrim a hazy gap in my psychic geography.

Now I drive to work through a changing inland sea:

green and montbretia; russet and rustle; bony branches; bud.

In my glove­box, Irish Place Names: The Appletree Guide.

I skirt Cluanín,

little meadow;

drive through Drumkeerin,

ridge of the quicken tree;

pass the sign for Dowra,

river­island of the ox.

On treeless slopes above Arigna ­

desolating, for the river’s speed ­

angular blades till the wind:

Feirm na Gaoithe.

My map names the mountain Selcannasaggart.

I consult the Guide, ask the locals in the office.

We agree that ‘priest’ is in there. But Selcanna­?

At home in Cionn Locha, I unearth three dusty volumes:

The Origin and History of Irish Names of Places

by P W Joyce, bequeathed by a fáinne­wearing uncle.

Selcanna­? I leaf through pages, knowing how sounds corrupt

through rough translation: Sailteann­na­saggart:

the sallow­plantation of the priests.

I imagine a band of farmer­monks, good men like my uncle,

growing willow on the mountain in a warmer time,

weaving a basket for grapes, a windbreak wall for tomato vines.

In the office I tell them what I’ve learned.

One of the men replies:

I knew all about the sally rod of the priest when I was a boy.

Monica Corish