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Walker L Powell

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Finnabair
by Walker L Powell
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This is a prose poem I wrote one day after reading the Irish epic 'The Cattle Raid of Cooley.' I felt that the princess Finnabair was treated unfairly by the authors and sat down to write what she insisted was her real story. Just a fun bit of writing. I don't usually write poetry.

They said I died of shame

that I followed my love and when

the kings fought, hundreds dead

their blood staining red the ground

I looked at those men, bodies twisted,

and I died of shame.

 

That is the story they tell.

 

But what do they know, those men who tell

the stories - never do women get a chance

to write what we know

to tell what we did

to say what we really wanted.

The men don’t know the truth.

 

 

I am Finnabair, daughter of the Queen:

Medb, who ruled men’s hearts and their

lust. She should have died from the shame

not I.

For it was she, the Queen, who caused the war.

For her sake did the men fight, and die.

 

 

Nor did I willingly go, when Medb, and

Aillill, my father, marched with their army.

And all for an animal, a bull to match

that of the king.

Medb brought me and the heroes one by one

came to fight for my hand; and I unwilling.

 

 

They fought Cu Chulainn, that greatest of heroes

and one by one they died at his hand and so did not

get mine.

Shamed I was then, by their standards, yet I did not die.

They came, and Medb told me to pour them wine and

lean close, smiling. They, drunk as pigs, leered at me,

then died at Cu Chulainn’s hand.

 

 

Even did Medb offer me to Cu Chulainn himself,

I, the parcel to be handed where she wished,

but he would not have me,

for he saw the trap they had wrought

pleased with their own cunning.

He tied me and the herald to posts:

me alive, the herald dead, to rot at my side

so did the offer only anger the great hero.

 

 

Then at the last, I tired of

playing their game.

Him! I cried. He is my love

(though in truth he was ugly and smelled)

and him only will I wed.

He was Cu Chulainn’s ally

and they saw a chance to win.

Take her, they said. And in return you shall have truce.

 

 

He agreed, and we were wed, a brief ceremony

and grim: not the joyous feast I

young and innocent

had imagined as a girl.

But even that night the seven kings of Munster

saw a chance to make chaos

(for they were a brutish lot

delighting in battle and trickery).

 

 

The blood ran thick on the ground and men

screamed as they died.

My new husband laughed, for he

Cu Chulainn’s ally, was no friend of Medb.

Seven hundred died, they say, and the

crows walked among them,

the Morrigan who rules war

and in the thick blood she dipped her beak.

 

 

They said I died of shame that

seven hundred men would die

for my hand, but they do not know the truth.

I was not shamed that men are idiots,

for that was a fact I knew before.

I only hid, and escaped my husband

who bore no love for me as I did not for him.

I felt no shame then, or now.

 

 

I live now in the woods, alone

and the animals are fair company for one

who has been so betrayed by humans.

I do not long for a man,

nor even a woman to keep me company

for I talk to the trees

and sometimes (though this is a secret)

they talk back.



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