A smock of nettles

by SM Jenkin

An Bhfaca Tú Mó Shéamuisín?
Mó Stóirín Óg Mó Bhuachaillín
But have you seen my little James?
I’m threaded through the eye of this needle and
cannot look away; my brothers cannot fly as swans
forever, our song-tainted tongues
call the hunters to them.
Blood-coated dogs with their beagles baying at their
steeled hooves, too dumb to know the difference
between geese and swans. So I sew the coats
that will still their tongues.

An bhfaca tú mo Shéamuisín?
is é ‘dhul síos an bóthar.
My baby boy, my James. His smile as
light as the gleam on the apple he’d shine
with the corner of his jumper for me.
Too bright to know the merits of a camouflage
when the hunt is on. Out looking to skim
river-smashed stones across the stilled shimmer
on the lake’s skin.
Fierce proud of his strength, hasn’t yet had it snatched
from him, his tongue flayed and salted clean.

An Bhfaca Tú Mó Shéamuisín?
and my mouth stitched with yarn
to stop the telling of it, he was too young
to have the knowing of it. He doesn’t have the
song from my lips. But my brothers, my brothers,
my beautiful dumb brothers. Swans are supposed
to be mute but they sing. Call out
in the tongue that would have them burned
as Fenians.

Mó Stóirín Óg Mó Bhuachaillín
better a smock than a shroud, my Ramie
spun fine as silk, still scorches.
My hands are fire, but my smocks will smother
their flames away from all eyes. They will pass.
Once I finish stitching, swaddle them tight,
tear away the clotted yarn from my mouth.
I will give him the English words that will
still his tongue.

An Bhfaca Tú Mó Shéamuisín?
An Bhfaca Tú Mó Shéamuisín?

Second generation Irish writer SM Jenkin has performed her work internationally and has supported Lemn Sissay, John McCullough and Atilla the Stockbroker. Her work has been published in numerous literary anthologies and magazines including Anti-Heroin Chic, Bloody Amazing, Boyne Berries, Dissonance and The Interpreter’s House.