On Lacking the Killer Instinct

by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

One hare, absorbed, sitting still,

Right in the grassy middle of the track,

I saw when I fled up into the hills, that time

My father, was dying in a hospital –

I see her suddenly again, borne back

By the morning paper’s prize photograph:

Two greyhounds tumbling over, absurdly gross,

While the hare shoots off to the left, her bright eye

Full not only of speed and fear

But surely in the moment a glad power,


Like my father’s, running from a lorry-load of soldiers

In nineteen twenty-one, nineteen years old, never

Such gladness, he said, cornering in the narrow road

Between high hedges, in summer dusk.

The hare

Like him should never have been coursed, but clever

She’ll fool the stupid dogs, double back

On her own scent, downhill, and choose her time

To spring away out of the frame, all while

The pack is labouring up.

The lorry was gaining

And he was clever, he saw a house

And risked an open kitchen door. The soldiers

Found six people in a family kitchen, one

Drying his face, dazed-looking, the towel

Half-covering his face. The lorry went off,

The people let him sleep that night, and he came out

Into a blissful dawn. Should he have gone there?

If the sheltering house had been burned down, what good

Could all his bright running have done

For those kind people?

And I should not

Have run away, but I went back to the city

Next morning, washed in brown bog water, and 

I thought about the hare, in her hour of ease.

Published in The Sun-fish (Gallery Press, 2009)