The Traveller Girls at the Siberian Ballet

Michael O'Loughlin, poet

Michael O'Loughlin, poet

Sat, Feb 22, 2014, 01:00

The Travellers have settled. They have settled for this,
the last stop on their itinerary.
They have been so long walking, but now
the songlines are silent
from Ballinasloe to Ballybane . . .
From my office window, I see their houses
boarded up like faces . . .


Siberian swans have flown from Perm to Galway
to perch and dangle on the Town Hall stage.
Skinny, frilled, and blonde they streak the air
in this dark town,
as Tchaikovsky is squeezed through the speakers
distorted and distant but still
delivering big pink thumps to the heart.

Leaving the theatre,
the pure faces of the Traveller girls
glow with illumination, like the Buddha as a child
not quite smiling, but watching in bliss
like an astronaut orbiting Earth in his capsule, looking at the planet they came from and will return to.

Their teacher tells me: They’re fine
till they hit puberty, then they just disappear.
To where? Into the karmic wheel
of birth and death and suffering, where time
makes them settle, so they stand still
for the rest of their lives, camped
between avatars, stunned
by the shock of unmoving ground beneath their feet.
Only for weddings and funerals,
fiestas of eternity, time and traffic stops.

In the evening I see their fathers’ impenetrable faces
as they speed their vans from one end of the car park
to the other, and back again and again,
the children strapped into their cots
to let them dream before they fall
and wake to see the ground
rushing up to meet them,
making them halt.

Michael O’Loughlin’s latest collection is In This Life ( New Island)

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