Female Silence: 9 Types by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

  1. In the eyes of another: Stern. Taciturn. Bitter. Firm.
  2. Beyond a window, a face, sink-blurred. She rubs spoons underwater, mouth downturned.
  3. A teenager grits her teeth when a stranger sneers: Cheer up love, give us a grin.
  4. Tongueless, the laundress draws silence from steam, hauling the wordless heft of scald, scrape, deformity.
  5. Examined by soldiers, she won’t speak. Interrogated by more, her curls twist in a stranger’s fist. White, white, her lips clench so tight, until shears give her hair flight.
  6. A century of silence, in which little changes. Her granddaughter’s words will be swallowed, still, unspilled.
  7. Inheritance: each female syllable is bitten, held imprisoned. Until it isn’t.
  8. Silence in brine: saline. The sight of fish tails set for pickling, five in a line.
  9. Intersection of time and desire: the sunken clock will swallow its tock-tick only if the river spills its captive. Sacrament.
  10. The silence of knives. The kitchen, so quiet. Slice. Slice. Slice. Slice.


Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s most recent book is ‘Oighear.’ Among her awards are the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, a Seamus Heaney Fellowship, and most recently, the Ostana Prize (Italy). This poem features in ‘9 Silences,’ a collaboration with Alice Maher, soon to be published by The Salvage Press.

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