“Labysheedy The Silken Bed)” is a translation by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill from her own Irish-language poem “Leaba Shíoda.” The title refers to a small town (also identified by the spelling Labasheeda) in County Clare on the north bank of the river Shannon. The poem uses the features of the landscape as a living entity in an address to a lover, creating a mood of deep feeling and pulsing sensuality that is striking in its openness and moving in its tenderness.
The first stanza begins as a declaration of devotion, the poet speaking directly from a core of passion, describing a place of intimacy:
I’d make a bed for youin Labysheedyin the tall grassunder the wrestling treeswhere your skinwould be silk upon silkin the darknesswhen the moths are coming down.
The physical presence of the person to whom the poem is addressed is emphasized by the focus on the body in the second stanza, which continues the tactile image of skin (metaphorically presented initially as silk), here compared to “milk being poured” so that its liquid qualities complement the sensuous textures of fine cloth. Then, in the latter part of the second stanza and the first half of the...
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