Paintings by Áine Teahan and Cathy Dillon

UNBOUND | Here and There by Cathy Dillon

Here and There


In the sea

Out here in the bay,

relics of deep memory 

float in driftwood cages,

Ink clouds of shame,

jellyfish kisses,

fronds of silence,

tempests, rages.

I surface.

Light slits the clouds, up in the distance,

Their world calls, quiet, insistent.  


Onto land

I emerge,

heart thumping,

soft, sucking noise as gills retract,

pain as raw lungs balloon with air,

slippery softness of wet limbs.

Walk across the beach,

– odd, rollicking sensation –

find my balance,

hide my peeled tail

behind the lifeguard’s shed,

under a slimy mound of kelp.

Notice, amazed,

how the careless sea has flung  shells across the sand,

pearlised, delicate,

miracles of construction,

no longer needed,

free, worthless treasures.

So that’s where they go.

A voice inside, thin as air, 

whispers a warning, 

I’m crossing into destruction and greed.

Ignore it, brush plastic grains from my hair.


In the town

Taste of soot in my mouth,

scream of machines on the street.

At sunset, the murky sky turns purple, like a bruise.

In the pub they’re beguiled when I sing,

they know it’s not the cadence of this place, 

but can’t say why.

I hide a smile.

The one who guesses is kind, 

treats me as though I belong.

But even he doesn’t see 

my only true words are my song.

I was warned if I came here, I could not speak,

as though my ocean silence was not fathoms deep.

Autumn buries the houses in leaves

on the day that I break down

–   go back  –

mourning my decision,

not in hopeless black,

in orange, yellow, red, brown.


The Return

As I hurry towards the shore 

the horizon is a dark rule across grey,

as though my sisters had underlined the sky

in eye pencil to mark my return.

Striding over shingle to the roiling green,

feel for the last time,

my calves, ankles, soles, toes,

every muscle and tendon,

the airy separateness of each leg. 

I’ve grown used to these twigs,

but my desire is for my solidity,

the shiver of scales on my haunch

when I dive off rocks,

the tease of warm currents

as I power through glassy water.

Near the shore, waves leave strings of soda bubbles 

like beads on the sand.

Beside a hank of dulse there’s a pouch, 

black as a beetle’s back, 

tendrils trailing into the garnet ribbons.

They called it a mermaid’s purse,

 as though we needed coins,

 or their half-truths and dark imaginings,

 we knew all along it nurtured a shark.

Silence has pared me down to the bone.

I dive into water,

I turn into foam.

For more original poetry, check out the HeadStuff Poem of the Week and Unbound archives.

Paintings: Cathy Dillon and Áine Teahan

Áine Teahan is a fine art and professional photographic artist.

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