The Signorelli Moment

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin


She’s back. Key in the door,

Dr Proteus feels giddy. Was this the house?

Didn’t she remember

a frescoed wall with resurrected limbs?

There’s a thump of a hoover, a radio plays,

a dead person greets her.

She’s dead too, she thinks. A smooth nude

salutes a skeleton and gestures to introduce

while another levers

a strong thigh-bone out of white clinging clay.

Flesh has fallen away.

Politeness covers,

Dr Proteus considers. She looks around

for the kitchen doorway, and finds

backyard, rubbish bins,

a fire-escape. She climbs, inhales,

but something grips her by the ankle,

means business.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s The Sun-Fish won the Griffin International Award for Poetry. This poem is from Berryman’s Fate: A Centenary Celebration in Verse (Arlen House), a new anthology to mark John Berryman’s centenary.