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
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
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.