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.
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)