Cáithnín By James Ireland
[One woman. Cold wind. Labhraíonn sí.]
It begins first dark earth land connected continent retreat ice and flood comes in, the climate
Three thousand metre tall ice sheet wall rip through glen log, sliabh, carraig, sciúradh an
tírdhreacha now gone. Across the sea we arrive.
Some stay at coast. Water. Spray. Red sunset. They remember phosphorescence on seaweed
and feeling you get when you’re out at sea at dawn and you’re the only person alive ever
before or ever since. But what I remember is trees, scots pine, thinner on uplands so there we
settle, clearing trees and smell of tree sap trunk cut firewood spit, in the morning tracks of
Then one thousand years the soil is empty, we move off mountain we move inland, inland,
and we clear trees too. Sphagnum moss grow over animalskin thatch huts we left behind. We
repeat. We creep downwind when we hunt. We love and we cry in thunderstorms. I lay in the
sun dreaming and a thin film is settling itself between me and my world. At some point I fall
And when I wake up.
City. Carbon-black turf-cut mountainside scar, metal glass sky-cut tarmac-sealed monstrous
smoke scar ship container oil earth-blood, machine. Mountain dust water pump crust fracture
net catch bottom trawl life screech, bigger, bigger, bigger, worse.
Asphalt grass square manicure cut down nitrogen grow steal earth dig mineral burn, platinum
war lithium conquer chlorpyrifos nitrogen soak grow and cut, grow and cut, grow and cut
and shop deliver fly freight naphtha kerosene hydrocarbon burn now more ice melt so fume
smoke more grow kill force feed take ask force pull tear build tear scratch scrape scour earth
break still scrape force tear more. Sessile oak? Mac tíre? Neamhláithreacht.
Somewhere on ocean, someone remembers a feeling. Dawn. Of no-one before and no-one
since. Being only person in world. The feeling of iarmhaireacht creeping up. Somewhere
someone else remembers sun on shoulderblades and dreaming, a scim descending on their
eyes as they succumb to sleep. I, awake now on top of my mountain, I listen.
When we were asleep we made planetwide world-poison. Crithir. Solid foundation whole
earth shivering. Land almost gone. Planet almost gone. Our words almost. Thoughts gone.
But. In gust of wind séideán gaoithe rush as something else from our-world-but-other-world
passes by - there is still time to glimpse half-memory some miniscule spark last hope speck
caught in corner of my eye.
Cáithnín. Yes, cáithnín. A word for that now I remember it is cáithnín.
My your world contains an other world and our atoms connect. Our atoms belong to each
other. Today world-poison neamhláithreacht has inside beneath in the future of it another
world. Cáithnín, séideán gaoithe, scim, son of the land are our word relics buried of time. Dig
them out. Excavate. Find. Learn.
And I can heal. Care. Share. Take sparsely. Séideán gaoithe gifts energy between
world-poison now and future life. The sun gifts hydrogen helium shooting from space
radiance electron heat, accept it. We do not take from sphagnum moss bratphortach, instead
leave and grow, froach, bog orchid, fia, white tailed eagle, and sessile oak caorthann instead
of spruce plantation dead harvest, bring corn bunting, mud pond snail, meadow saxifrage,
wild boar, mac tíre. Turn grass square tarmac to birds-foot-trefoil, red clover, Devil’s-bit
scabious, praiseach garbh, poipín, talamh móinéir. Turn tidal movement to electrons. To
cáithnín. Catch them. Keep them. Use them. Listen to them. Work with them.
Follow them. The climate is changing. Tá cneasú air.
James Ireland is a gender nonconforming playwright/theatremaker. They recently graduated from the MA Writing programme at the RCA (London), where they researched actionable allyship in theatre producing. Previous work includes productions at The New Theatre and Smock Alley (Dublin), as well as The Arcola, Pleasance, and Theatre Deli (London).