Chemistry in the kitchen

Photograph: Colm Hogan



It is half past four in the afternoon

and Caitlín and Ciarán are making fast

and furious music inside in the kitchen,

he on fiddle, she on foot, both on fire.

Ruby dress, golden tress, alabaster skin,

earthy hues of instrument, shirt and shoes

flare against the whiteness of the room

and its decorative bands of lapis blue.


But, see: this is a silent form, teasing us

with unheard melody; a photograph,

planned, prepared and posed for effect,

and therefore not, in that other sense,

the ‘real thing’: fully true to its folk origin;

not the amateur snapshot or stolen

monochromatic moment of the archive.

It is self-conscious ballyhoo. Artistic?


Yes. It is itself an ode, a homage

to a more rustic age, when music

was played as relief from life’s grind;

a diversion at day’s end from ploughing,

cleaning, harvesting, cooking and

taking to market to sell … not the music,

of course (what would one be doing

selling music!) – the surplus from labour.


The higgledy-piggledy here-and-there

of kitchen utensils – so many sieves!

so many spatulas! – and thingamajigs,

the casual un-arrangedness of it all,

the plain, weathered ramshackledness

of the fixtures, fittings and finishes,

the modesty of attire and expression,

all turn on the idea of a by-gone truth.


Beauty in the image is all we need:

she caught at that moment in the twirl

when centrifugal force has lifted hair

and hem in perfect circling carousels

of colour; and he captured (fast time)

coming up from under it, carrying notes;

she glancing over at him on every turn,

and he, listening ear, keeping eye on her.


Close our eyes, now, and what can we see?

He’s actually playing her, and she him!

Caitlín as fiddle: upper, lower, waist bouts,

hourglass of curve and curl, concavity,

convexity, light reflecting, air-swelling;

and Ciarán, darker, more solid, as flagstone:

terra firma for her steps, always there,

steady, and ready (like art) to withstand time.


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