When Ireland won still under a spell
and every sheep had two heads forsooth
and before the Inexhaustible Cow had been milked into the sieve
and oak-trees grew in the Big Bog
where the Fianna went in chase of the deer
Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, The Astrakhan Cloak
trans. Paul Muldoon, Winston-Salem: Wake Forest University Press, 1992, p 65
…foundations of Irish culture – state control of women’s reproduction, and the nationalist and religious mythologies, Virgin Mary and Mother Ireland – that have framed and, therefore, limited Irish women.
(Moloney 2003: 198)
Their right and desire to contest these discriminatory positions draws together nationalist notions of feminist identity politics into what is undoubtedly a difficult and often antagonistic relationship. This is because feminist politics are always in danger of being subsumed into an imagined community of ‘Irishness’ which (currently) tries to ignore difference between ‘Irish’ peoples.
(Scarlata, p 216)
….Ireland’s contemporary images of woman are products of colonization. When a nation is conquered and colonized, it is represented by its conquerors as female. Hence Ireland’s aliases ‘Mother Ireland or Erin’ which, combined with Ireland’s religious identity, are also tied to ‘the Mother of God … [and] Mother Church’ (Steel, 106). Irish women are thus linked to the nation and its identity through their common gender, and this connection is reinforced in the nation’s literature and through its religious iconography…Christianity and colonization, have deprived the Irishwoman of any empowering foremother figures. (p55)
(Liesch, K. Mother Stories: The Woman Myth in By the Bog of Catsand Tea in a China Cup, Storytelling: Critical and Creative Approaches pp 55-65)
Sometimes when the mermaid’s daughter
is in the bathroom
cleaning her teeth with a thick brush
and baking soda
she has the sense the room is filling
It starts at her feet and ankles
and slides further and further up
over her thighs and hips and waist.
In no time
it’s up to her oxters.
She bends down into it to pick up
handtowels and washcloths and all such things
as are sodden with it.
They all look like seaweed—
like those long strands of kelp that used to be called
‘mermaid-hair’ or ‘foxtail.’
Just as suddenly the water recedes
and in no time
the room’s completely dry again.
A terrible sense of stress
is part and parcel of these emotions.
At the end of the day she has nothing else
to compare it to.
She doesn’t have the vocabulary for any of it.
At her weekly therapy session
she has more than enough to be going on with
just to describe this strange phenomenon
and to express it properly
to the psychiatrist.
She doesn’t have the terminology
or any of the points of reference
or any word at all that would give the slightest suggestion
as to what water might be.
‘A transparent liquid,’ she says, doing as best she can.
‘Right,’ says the therapist, ‘keep going.’
He coaxes and cajoles her towards word-making.
She has another run at it.
‘A thin flow,’ she calls it,
casting about gingerly in the midst of the words.
‘A shiny film. Dripping stuff. Something wet.’
A Recovered Memory of Water - Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
(trans. by Paul Muldoon, in The Fifty Minute Mermaid by Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Gallery Press)