Diarmuid And Gráinne A Poem by Karina Tynan


The beautiful Gráinne daughter of King Cormac Mac Airt was promised to be the new wife of the ageing Fionn mac Cumhaill, leader of the Fianna*. At their betrothal feast Grainne slipped a sleeping potion into the drinks of the guests so that she could ask Diarmuid Ua Duibhne to come away with her. Diarmuid is loyal to Fionn but he has a geis* on him to never say no to a woman. He goes with Gráinne but is painfully torn between his love and his loyalty.

*Geis (pronounced geasa) is a is like a vow mixed up with a taboo.
*The Fianna were a band of independent warriors who were trained in the arts of war, oratory and poetry. 



At First Sight

Think on it: cantering hooves in a castle yard.

Warrior silhouettes centaur clouding the sky,

the stable lads shaking from the turbulent reek.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill on a black stallion.

His steam taking mountains out of the limelight.

“The myth is real. The myth is real” was sung

as they marked the ground with their names:

Oscar, Caoilte, Goll and Diarmuid

who made holes in her back with his eyes.




A citadel dressed in banners was her jail.

She was natures child, fostered in the wild

knowing the facets of fire and crystals

hacked from rocks, placed purple

under her pillows, for kingdoms far away,

where wind roared with rage, as if it knew

she was innocent to the bargain.

Nothing will slaughter the dreams of a kings daughter

like an old man.

But stronger dreams put up a fight. Potions

were her thing. He went out like a light.

While Fionn Mac Cumhaill slept like a boy

she proposed to Diarmuid Ua Duibhne

who made holes in her back with his eyes.

And with no place to hide they fled

without a way.



Lost .. 

without a ledge for rest on a twisted walk.

A mean smoke grey light fogged her brain

and the spirit had left.

Briars slashed her legs.

Wet skins froze her girl shoulders.

Her feet burned and still he would not carry her.

He wished she was a boy.

At the coast she picked a grain of sand with pity for its smallness.

In the forest she took a leaf to keep with her grain of sand.

She made another bed,

blew her shredded heart into weak flames.



The God of Love  

(Óengus Óg)

It must be the work of a god who parts the waters

in a sea of men to shine a light on only one.

If Óengus had not taken her Diarmuid might have failed her

when he was squalid in the mud of battle.

It was the work of a god who gave her the legs

to walk their road.



Dolmen i

She came to him wet from the lake.

He was battle torn and tired.

A drop of water ran down her thigh.

Brave water, she spoke with her eyes.


Dolmen ii

She collected moss for a soft mattress.

Softness at her core opening like earth for death.

She collected moss regardless of the show they would make

under the moon.


Dolmen iii

Hardness and softness married inside her.

She felt them come into her.



Just When

They were caught, just when she thought it was over.

They had thrived. Plants, fish and deer.

A home for their children where happiness forgot

the chagrin left behind.

He came to join their hunt.

He came to watch him die.

The old man, humiliated like a boy.



Couldn’t Look 

She couldn’t look

at the picture he made

on the black earth.

She couldn’t look at him

like he was always there

in her mind somewhere.

She couldn’t look

at his thrown body

fitting so well

into the curves of his hill.



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