Originally published in Poetry Ireland Review, issue 17, edited by Terence Brown
John Ennis has written a frankly pagan poem, a marvellously original re-interpretation of the legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne. Diarmuid is a laboratory technician in a milk processing plant, in love with a pillion-passenger Grainne in an Ireland of recognisable contemporaneity. The language of science, of sexual delight and a kind of slack everydayness (which reminds of Kavanagh) combine to create a wholly delightful poetic strangeness. This will give you an idea of the thing:
The eyes of Mr Joyce tracked down Ray Daly.
Farm soil blew grey and sleety in the north wind
The green grass bleached. A black frost clung.
The April air was white and dry with foreboding
The sapling trees bent like old lanterns in the breeze.
Daffodils danced insanely. Their yellow cups shook,
And a few attempts at forsythia bloomed in gold.
Across one shrub a juggernaut had reversed.
Within the snowy portals of Bord Bainne land
Presumptive teenagers from RTCs pimply
Adolescents on grant from the National Science Council,
Technicians with Diplomas on a part-time basis
Performed lactose, casein, anti-biotic analyses,
Novices on the grateful periphery of Science.
But in this bizarre world of papal visits and strange new chemical processes, Gráinne is her old self, a girl out of the old songs, the pagan, Gaelic world still intact, whatever else isn’t in this poem of frank sexual celebration:
The birch leaf fell from her cardigan
like an accusation.
Her father purpled. The Papal Visit was
And Gráinne remembered the blackbird singing
On the rhodendron beyond Tipperary.