Aill na Searrach/ The Leap of the Foals

Seven of the Tuatha de Danaan, sought retreat in a cave near the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare. When they emerged they had become horses. They were seen to gallop off a cliff within sight of Doolin, to gather again in the 5th province; the province of the imagination. This cliff is Aill na Searrach; the Leap of the Foals.’


This is it.


The order of muscle, of limbs and bones. Conformation.

A pelt. Colours –

Bay, Black, Steel Grey,

Dun, and the roans  – a Blue Roan, and a Red-Strawberry Roan,

And finally, rare and thrown-back, as if Lahinch

the liver-chestnut.


Bone, I keep returning to a vision of bone and flanks.

We have no expectation of wings,

That belongs to another time, and to some other island.





I am trying to recover night vision

I have done as you advised; I have made time,

We are gathered in the holding place that is this cave,

In need of rest, in need of the dark,

In need of concession, giving-in, permission,

To be allowed.


Half-light is bearable,

The day is something to retreat from.

I wonder how I might create a self that ‘disappears’ me – 

And one that will go on stage in my place, sweeping the back yard if necessary –

A walking talking ‘sunny’ one – one

For the light, one who will buy me time – a worker,

So that all along, or for a while, I can stay in the dark,

Close to the cool earth, out of the light,


In communion, for however long is necessary.



I discover what I am become

When I see for new the other.

I look into your eyes and notice

After stillness and close examination

How far my neck will reach

What has become of my limbs

How I have shifted shape

In the cool, in the dark.

How I am now ready




Afterwards, no bodies were washed up.

What it was they thought they saw is not what happened.

What they saw was seven wild and beautiful ones run into the horizon, run onto the silk scarf laid out by the evening sun.

What they saw was the fall.

What happened was we leapt.

What they saw was rage

What happened was necessary

What they saw was panic, was fear, was running away.

What happened was courage.

What they saw was herd,

What happened was bond.

What they saw was end,

What happened was continuance, was more, was beginning again,

Was fate

Was faith

Was inevitable.


They said, ‘horses are not meant for the sea’

And missed the part that Sea is all horse when it comes to it.




They said, sea is what separates us – but we know different


Sea is plasma

Sea is reach

Sea is touch

Sea takes distance and measures it,

Makes possible.



I claim an island for myself


The marriage of earth and sea

Of that which is fixed and that fluid

Of what moves and what stays put.




I am remembering a dream

I am remembering the Sea Eagle

Its leg chained and tethered to the earth

It is for your own good’

‘You cannot survive without being anchored’

‘You are too rare.’


It does not stop me wanting.


I am remembering

A glen

A lough

The  mountains

I am remembering how far into the distance it is possible to see

I am remembering ‘how-high’ in the air, a cliff face,

And how perspective can make each everyday thing look ‘toy’

if you get far enough.



This is a poem without end.

This is a poem born into a blue day,

Born into hours walking the shore-line.

This is a poem that lay on the rocks imagining.

This is a poem with its own songs – its middle-distance, its own tomorrow.

This is a poem that will pass.

This is a poem with its own wine, with longing and with its own truth.

This is a poem that has wept.

This poem began.



Stay in the dark.

Don’t worry about anything.

I have come to work for you.

I have showed up, ahead of time, dressed for the part

Diligent, attentive, conscientious, awake and in the day time.

Don’t worry about anything.

I have come to work for you.

Stay in the dark.





It was the right call –

Such things as this deserve their privacy-

deserve the dark,

so that what happens

is not     Freak-show



         Or noticed even.

Cave becomes womb.

Holding does not say nothing goes on

Or worse, that nothing changes.

Look again.



The winds brought seven early butterflies

High up, in blue air, a whole seven of them

Each one made a chrysalis for new, and gave it away.

And, because they knew how and because this story is for telling, not for show,

There were no cameras

Nor any other record if it comes to it.


So, in the telling, now, because I was there, was part of it,

I can tell you this much;

What light there was, was scarce, low, dreamt almost, closer to memory, but adequate, just.

Each silk, each folded like a promise, blanket shaped –

A promise that would be kept regardless. Intimate but separate.



No-one really counted time.

Each one of us a clock,

A life measured in heart-beats

         With sleep

         With rest

         With work to do


Nothing small or belittled–

As astonishing as child song

Or how a child might lead us to the sea,

To found things;

A feather, pebbles, weeds, an empty carapace, the knot of something coughed up by a hunting bird;

                   ways of seeing the world.




We mistake ourselves for mortals only

And we are mortal, that’s for sure,

But we are also horse

We are sea

We are eagle

We are stone

And shore

And island

We are distance

We are bone


And paths that crossed

And crossed again.








3 thoughts on “Aill na Searrach/ The Leap of the Foals

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