How does he know?

by Kate Chadbourne

The old púca wears a beard
of damp watercress
The old púca wriggles on his belly
in the ditch alongside your road
The old púca doesn’t know
will he be good or do a trick

Decides, and whiffles your skirts
blows on your ankles
fern-tickles behind your knees

and suddenly you consider jumping
into the river gathering strength
like a thousand boulders rolling in,
tumbling out

The old púca conducts this thought
through the open doors of your head,
through the latchless gates of your blood:
the image of a wavery green nation,
a slippery one where you belong,
where your fins find a use
and the gills you’ve hidden
remember their old contentment
and breathe watery lungfuls
in a world that knows you whole.

The old púca counts to ten
and listens for a splash

Kate Chadbourneteaches Irish language, folklore and writing in that place in which one pahk-s the cah. Not only has she encountered the pooka in her journeys, but also the cailleach, or hag. Both of them are great at parties. She's wild about apples.

Back to the Table of Contents.