Pygmalion’s Image • Eiléian Ní Chuilleanáin

from The Magdalene Sermon (1989)

Not only her stone face, laid back staring in the ferns,

But everything the scoop of the valley contains begins to move

(And beyond the horizon the trucks beat the highway).

A tree inflates gently on the curve of the hill;

An insect crashes on the carved eyelid;

Grass blows westward from the roots,

As the wind knifes under her skin and ruffles it like a book.

The crisp hair is real, wriggling like snakes;

A rustle of veins, tick of blood in the throat;

The lines of the face tangle and catch, and

A green leaf of language comes twisting out of her mouth. 

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin is an Irish poet and academic from Cork. She is a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin and an emeritus professor of the School of English which she joined in 1966. In 2016, she was appointed Ireland Professor of Poetry by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. A selection of her poems are currently on the syllabus for the Leaving Certificate, the final state examination for secondary school students in Ireland.

[This poem was published in our first issue • “Connections Brazil & Ireland” • in Dec 2020 and received the translation into Portuguese by Luci Collin]

Cover image by Marluce Lima

Read our conversation with the poet and translator Luci Collin: