The Mermaid in the Hospital

By Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill b. 1952 Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill

Translated By Paul Muldoon Read the translator's notes

She awoke   
to find her fishtail   
clean gone   
but in the bed with her   
were two long, cold thingammies.   
You'd have thought they were tangles of kelp   
or collops of ham.

"They're no doubt   
taking the piss,   
it being New Year's Eve.   
Half the staff legless   
with drink   
and the other half   
playing pranks.   
Still, this is taking it   
a bit far."
And with that she hurled
the two thingammies out of the room.

But here's the thing   
she still doesn't get—
why she tumbled out after them   
How she was connected   
to those two thingammies   
and how they were connected   
to her.

It was the sister who gave her the wink
and let her know what was what.
"You have one leg attached to you there   
and another one underneath that.   
One leg, two legs...
A-one and a-two...
Now you have to learn   
what they can do."

In the long months   
that followed,   
I wonder if her heart fell
the way her arches fell,
her instep arches.

Source: Poetry (April 2007).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2007
 Nuala  Ní Dhomhnaill


Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill is one of the most prominent poets writing in the Irish Gaelic language today. Her poetry has been translated into English by a number of well-known Irish poets, including Seamus Heaney, Medbh McGuckian, and Paul Muldoon. Irish themes, including language, are central to her poetry and range from ancient myths to small details of contemporary life. Her first collection was published in 1981, and the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Gender & Sexuality, Social Commentaries, The Body, Mythology & Folklore, The Mind, Fairy-tales & Legends


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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