An Irish Accountant Foresees His Death
My father read me a story once
It was about a warp-spasm warrior called Cú Chulainn who saved the men of Ulster from the armies of Connaught. To buy the Ulster men time to ready for war he rode out to meet the Connaught soldiers. Him alone and them an army. For months he fought them at the fords of rivers. He fought them in the shallows, one at a time, not stopping for eating nor sleeping and the bodies of the dead piled up so high that the rivers of Ulster became more flesh than water.
Eventually he was injured beyond standing but, to hide this from Connaught men, he lashed himself to a stone at the maw of a crossing (using ropes he hacked out from his own hair) and died on his feet, staring down his enemies through mountains of their own dead. The Connaught army dared not pass. Not a man of them. Not for an entire week. Not until the circling ravens came down and tattooed out with their pecking that Cú Chulainn was dead. By then the men of Ulster had readied for war. Ulster was saved as the birds ate out Cú Chulainn’s eyes.
That’s how I’ll go too.
I’ll too die slaying an army. I’ll turn and face the massed ranks of ordinariness that have pooled in my wake, heap-piling high their average carcasses into massacre mounds and then, when I’m whey faced and spent and darkling wings pinion above in blackening waitwheels, I’ll too lash myself to the last stone of my defiance and wait for the birds to make a hero-feast of my face.
But not today.
Today the sky is too blue for fighting.
Today I can see no gyring ravens.
Today I like my face too much.
So today Cú Chulainn can keep the ardours of Ulster and I’ll keep my eyes where they are.
Sleeping on sound deep and down in their sockets.
Niall Bourke is a 33 year old English teacher who works in a sixth form college in South East London. He is currently finishing a masters in creative writing at Goldsmiths University. He has been published in Southbank Poetry and Prole magazine.