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,
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.