Clíodhna’s call: my awe and grá for the ocean.

Which came first, the picture or the poem? In this case, it was the painting. I painted this a few years ago, and wrote ‘Clíodhna’s Call’ in 2019.

CLÍODHNA’S CALL

Through crunch of shingle and bubble of foam

You know the sound of my breathing

I am liquid stillness and roaring waves

Soothing and scary in equal measure

Your lungs are my heart

I am the weather.

Now comes Autumn to tug at your arm

Soon leaves will dance themselves yellow

I will tickle your feet, kiss your sandy toes

In cahoots with the moon bringing you tides

To nourish all beings

I elevate life.

By sun and by stars I exhale for you

Forgiving the hurt of pollution

You exalt my blue and emerald tones

With paintings and ritual songs of joy

As choking on plastic

Softly I cry.

Ní neart go cur le chéile.

Oscailt do chroí éist liom

Glaoim trasna na dtonnta

Tabhair aire dom.

LISTEN TO THE POEM HERE:

Irish / English translation

Ní neart go cur le chéile  There is no strength without unity

Oscailt do chroí, éist liom Open your heart, listen to me

Glaoim trasna na dtonnta I call out across the waves

Tabhair aire dom              Take care of me.

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SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Here in Ireland, as it is in many other countries, our mythology is rich and multilayered. The goddess Clíodhna is associated with love, beauty, and the sea.

She had three coloured birds who were vibrant both in colour and in voice: their sweet song healed the sick. After leaving Tír na nÓg to be with Ciabhán, her mortal lover, Cliodhna fell under the spell of music and slept so deeply that she was “taken” by a wave at Glandore harbour in County Cork. The tide there became known as ‘Tonn Chlíodhna’ (Irish: pronounced ‘town Clee on ah‘) or ‘Clíodhna’s Wave'[i]

Some versions of the myth depict Cliodhna’s drowning. Other story tellers describe her ambiguously as being ‘taken away’.

The first time that I saw massive piles of plastic on a beach was in Morocco. Every morning I left my apartment in the dark and went to work in the next village under a canopy of stars. As the sun came up I led morning yoga practice, facing the ocean and worshipping all that was visible. Later, I would see endless plastic rubbish on the sand and shreds of it hanging off trees.

I wonder how long it will take before single use plastic is banned in Ireland. Most of it is incinerated at the end of a short, but toxic, life. This poem gives Cliodhna the voice of the sea and the anthropocene.


[i] Matson, Gienna (2004). Celtic Mythology A to Z. Chelsea House. p. 31.

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