Behemoth

A martyr this morning, as ever, to cramps and pains
I organize myself to face the day.
I show a leg, put my shoulder to the wheel,
Daub paint on my eyelids and stick a couple of long
Hairpins in my desperate mane to hold it—
Too much trouble even to brush my hair.
 
I start on the spot on this heavy, sluggish,
Difficult, heartbreaking work, the reason no doubt
I was first put on the earth.
I take the same little plastic brush that I use
On good days to spread melted butter on pastry.
And gradually lay bare with insect patience,
Sifting away like an ant, with a hunter’s eye, or
 
The sharp ear of a trespassing pig, alternately huffing
And puffing and effing and blinding: in the wet sand,
The painful lines of our horror, the boundaried frame of fear,
That lays us low so often in the bogs of despond.
You’d take it as first for a boat’s skeleton, a kind
Of Sutton Hoo for our people, but soon its true shape appears:
Biblical Behemoth, the monster of all the old tales.

 

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, "Behemoth" (translated by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin) from The Water-Horse,. Copyright © 1999 by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.  Reprinted by permission of The Gallery Press.
Source: The Wake Forest Book of Irish Women's Poetry (Wake Forest University Press, 2011)
More Poems by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill