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Safe House, and: Sparrow

From: Éire-Ireland
Volume 48, Issue 3&4, Fall/Winter 2013
pp. 321-322 | 10.1353/eir.2013.0017

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

When they were beginning to build a country
some of the men came to hide in a house
where there was a family, and a child upstairs,
listening. They told him what to say if anyone

ever asked. Say they were never there.
Say there was only a family in that house.
And during the night the boy went to the room
where their bags and belongings were hidden.

He felt along the canvases, the mouldy wet
and sag of the straps. His fingers touched on
papers and coins, and lifted out the revolver,
its coolness and the weight of it in his hands.

Then he felt nothing. His blood crept slowly
and dark along the floorboards, underneath them,
and the room shook, and stood still,
and seemed to hang for a moment in that night.

When they found him they cleaned him,
his face, gently and quickly, and his mother
wrapped him in a blanket and took him
out to a corner of the farm and buried him.

Back in the house they gathered his things,
and built up a fire again in the kitchen,
burning his clothes, his shoes, all the signs
and small, clumsy turnings of a child.

And afterwards, in the freezing dark, the father
went out to find the doctor and the parish priest
to tell them what had happened, and what they
should say if anyone ever asked.


That one who came tapping at the window,
brown-suited, upright at dawn, my father
said was his father flown home for summer
to help outside where our help wouldn’t do,
and began to wink and talk to the old man
about changes here, the new cow house,
or how he broke those lower fields into one,
keeping always straight and almost serious.

That was remembered again today, stirred
in the spring-ground of the milking shed
where light softens beyond the stalls
and shafts, and I heard a song thrush call,
bright, unexpected and familiar.
Where I turned, and almost began to answer.

Leanne O’Sullivan  

Leanne O’Sullivan was born in 1983 and comes from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork. She is the author of three poetry collections, published by Bloodaxe Books—Waiting for My Clothes (2004), Cailleach: The Hag of Beara (2009) and The Mining Road (2013). She has been the recipient of several awards including the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary Award (2009, nominated by Michael Longley), The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature (2010), The Lawrence O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry (2011), and the UCC Alumni Achievement Award (2012). She is currently Writer in Residence at University College Cork.

Sparrow: “Safe House” and “Sparrow” are reprinted courtesy of Bloodaxe Books. Both appear in The Mining Road, which was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland in April 2013, and will appear in the United States in September.

Copyright © 2013 Irish American Cultural Institute
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Leanne O’Sullivan. "Safe House, and: Sparrow." Éire-Ireland 48.3 (2013): 321-322. Project MUSE. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
O’Sullivan, L.(2013). Safe House, and: Sparrow. Éire-Ireland 48(3), 321-322. Irish-American Cultural Institute. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Leanne O’Sullivan. "Safe House, and: Sparrow." Éire-Ireland 48, no. 3 (2013): 321-322. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed November 11, 2013).
T1 - Safe House, and: Sparrow
A1 - Leanne O’Sullivan
JF - Éire-Ireland
VL - 48
IS - 3
SP - 321
EP - 322
PY - 2013
PB - Irish-American Cultural Institute
SN - 1550-5162
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/eire-ireland/v048/48.3-4.o-sullivan01.html
N1 - Volume 48, Issue 3&4, Fall/Winter 2013
ER -


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