Ardagh Heritage Centre, Co Longford

The Second Wife
from: The Wooing of Etain

The poems in this series concentrate on the part of the legend: The Wooing of Etain, where Midir brings Etain, his new wife, home and she meets his first wife, Fuamnach. Consumed with jealousy, Fuamnach conspires against her beautiful rival. She turns her into a pool of water and when it evaporates, Etain emerges as an exquisite purple butterfly that fills the air with perfume and sweet music.

Midir recognises Etain and they remain inseparable until Fuamnach creates a terrible storm and for seven years Etain is blown all over the countryside.

(The poems presented here are nos 1,3 and 6 of a series of 6 – see: Midhir and Etain)

Etain Moves In With Fuamnach

If I can feel at home herea34ec2b3e49716c3c84cc61fd3c5b149
all will be well, all calm.
Fuamnach guides me to a chair,
‘Sit down at my house’s heart.’

Beautiful in a grey way,
she freezes me to the bone.
Midir is mistaken, I’m sure he is.
‘She won’t mind, she’ll welcome you.

She knows tradition and custom.’
This chair is in the centre,
well placed among all circles.
Maybe I’ll move it a little.

No, she seems to shriek but
her voice is low, measured,
the noise is in her eyes only,
her rebuff cuts me.

I had better sit in this chair,
seems to be her wish, a small
matter to make Madame happy.
I lower myself on to the seat,

a smile suffuses her face, soft,
pale, like a bowl of cream
left out for Samhain’s mysteries.
She pats his arm, looks right

into my heart, seems to purr,
‘The seat of a good woman
hast thou come into, Etain.’
Her declaration of herself.

I’ll see awhile, let her know.

(c) Ann Egan

Etain In Fuamnach’s Spell

The circles have stopped whirring.
I am steady, I’ll hold the armrest
and leave this chair, never again
seat myself in its nightmare.

But what is happening to me?
My voice drains from me,
flows to one long scream,
silent in its vehemence.

I clasp my hands, they won’t bend,
they fall in strange ways,
they flow from my arms,
my wrists, elbows, melting.

I will stand up, race from
terrors in Fuamnach’s house.
My feet won’t carry me.
My legs are streams.

What am I looking upon?
My heart flows from me.
I cannot clasp this chair’s edges,
cannot hoist myself into the air.

I seem to be all sea, perhaps
I’m in a black faint, stretched
out on the floor, yes, that’s it.
I’m not in the real world.

I hear a lapping sound, a saucer
of milk left out, greedy cat
having her fill, lap, lap.
I know so well cat sounds.

I’ll look but my eyes won’t open,
they’re like closed waterlilies on
a sleeping lake, motionless.
What has come upon me?

Why have my limbs weakened,
nearly weak as water.
I can’t stand up or look about.
I can’t move, am I paralysed?

What can be happening to me?
This chair has brought ill on me.
I can’t walk from this room,
wetness overwhelms me.

(c) Ann Egan

Etain’s Hexing By Fuamnac

I think I have fallen
deep into a cave prison.
There is no light, no air.
My heart almost ceases beating.

I feel a shell fall upon me.
The water I am, leaves me.

What form am I now?
Is water my swansong?

But it rises, away into the air,
I feel a roof fall on me.
I am the pool on the floor,darkpool
circles inwards now.

How did I come to the middle
of these forsaken circles?
I am their centre but
they rob me of my rays.

My mind grows strong,
enters into a strange place,
my world becomes a point
on the quicken tree’s leaf.

I cannot watch Spring come
and sew seeds deep within
the earth folds, I cannot survive
on such a spot, a mere speck.

Let me cover myself with water,
but even that flows from me,
rises like evening flies in the air.
I am wearied to my waters.

Would I could leave, sleep forever.

(c) Ann Egan, 8 Abbey Court, Clane, Co. Kildare, Ireland. Tel + 353 6645 868487
email annegan8@gmail.com
Ann Egan, a multi-award winning Irish poet, has held many residencies in counties, hospitals, schools, secure residencies and prisons. Her books are: Landing the Sea (Bradshaw Books); The Wren Women (Black Mountain Press); Brigit of Kildare (Kildare Library and Arts Services) and Telling Time (Bradshaw Books). She has edited more than twenty books including, ‘The Midlands Arts and Culture Review,’ 2010. She lives in County Kildare, Ireland.