SCIOLLÁINCUTTING

(Sciolláin is Gaelic for Seed Potatoes.)

‘Twas customary, an expert was invited,
An old lady, a genius in her own right,
Between her finger and her wrinkled palm,
She efficiently maneuvered a tiny knife,
With handle as worn as her bony knuckles,
Which crackled as she dug the edgy blade
Into the rounded eyeballs of the potatoes.
Like a carver, she scooped and prodded,
Bending now and then she quickly cast
The ruptured remains of her labour,
But carefully piling up in a half barrel
The prospects of next year’s potato harvest.
Laboriously, she sat near the open fire,
Her grey hair falling untidily in bundles
Over her black woollen shawl ,which covered
Her humped shoulders, rounded and brawny,
Like a witch over her magic cauldron
Preparing her special furtive brew.
The thud thud of falling fragments
Was lulling to our childrens’ ears,
She seldom spoke, but just continued
With aristocratic dignity, surgeon like,
Until the fall of evening, she stood and
Then suddenly departed into the air of night
Leaving large bundles of potatoes
Cut in artistic shapes and sizes,
The precious seed to return to earth,
Their carved remains as fodder in the byres.

Copyright Máiréad Tuohy Duffy (C)2004