Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin - Street

In Brief:

Street is a short poem about love and attraction designed to leave the reader guessing. A man falls ‘in love with the butcher’s daughter’ as he sees her walk down the street and on one occasion he follows her home.

Stanza by Stanza:

A woman, who engages in the work of a butcher, traditionally seen as a masculine activity, makes for an intriguing central character in this poem. The man who watches her seems fascinated with the knife on her belt and the ‘dark shining drops’ of blood, which drip onto the ground from it.

One day he follows her and gets to see her in a different setting, the domestic sphere at home.  He sees the spotless stairs ‘brushed and clean’ and her shoes placed neatly on the bottom step. Then he notices the marks her bare feet have made on the stairs as they ascended: ‘the red crescent/ Her bare heels left, fading to faintest at the top.’

For the reader the story ends here and we are left wondering as to what happened next if anything. It seems to be deliberately ambiguous.


The poem almost entirely consists of word pictures creating a cinematic effect. The reader follows the action of the girl on her walk being watched and is left to think about these ambiguous images afterwards.

The poet uses contrasting colour to powerful effect with the image of dark red blood beside the pristine white of the butcher’s trousers:

When he saw her passing by in her white trousers
Dangling a knife on a ring at her belt,
 He stared at the dark shining drops on the paving-stones.

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