Salamander 2024 Fiction Contest

SUBMIT: May 1 through June 2, 2024 | READING FEE: $15


In the Computer, a Cave

Doireann Ní Ghríofa
| poetry


for Darach
So quickly, this child learns the ways of swipe and scroll.
We find him, hiding behind the sofa with a small screen,
his little fingers far faster than ours across the surface.

Those first weeks, he seeks only photos of himself.
He silvers a mirror from the dark and smiles
at his own past smiles there, his twinned blue eyes.

Later, he falls in love with an accidental
video clip, made on our visit
to a subterranean bear cave.

One of us must have tried to take a photo
of the underground waterfall, and instead
pressed record. The video shows 5.6 seconds

of falling water, illuminated by a dozen camera flashes.
He plays it again and again and again, staring
at the screen where sparking water spills into dark,

like spitting filaments of fireworks
or birthday candles flickering just before they hiss,
extinguished. We wonder what he sees there that we can’t,

what draws him back, to babble at the flash.
Again, he presses play and again, the dark wakes
to fill the screen with a shower of amber flames.

He stares, rapt, and we watch him,
his face becoming luminous,
suddenly strange.

Doireann Ní Ghríofa is an award-winning bilingual poet, writing both in Irish Gaelic and in English. Paula Meehan awarded her the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary 2015. Her collection Clasp is currently shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Award 2016.

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