Changeling

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Iarlais (The Changeling); by Louis de Paor (Translated from Irish)

She did as she was told

putting her arms above her head
as I pulled off the tightfitting jumper,
then ran crookedly
on bow legs slipping and
sliding across the wet floor
heading for the bath.

In the blink
of an eye the changeling
took on my daughter’s body
running for all eternity
down a narrow unending road
somewhere in Vietnam
naked as an unlidded eye
without a stitch to protect
her wizened body
from my evil eye
when the camera winked
at her like this.

When she comes back
screaming with pain
the mark of that tortured ghost
is branded on her dripping skin
scalded by the hot water
sweating from my unshuttered eye.

A Changeling is a child who is swapped by the faeries, who steal a beautiful child and leave an ugly and deformed one in its place.  It was a very strong belief in Ireland until quite recently.  It was a kind way to explain the birth of a deformed child or one suffering from Downes Syndrome, Motor Neuron Disease, Spinabifida etc.  There are many tales of boys being dressed up as girls to fool the faeries, and babies being smeared with soot on the face to make them look more ugly.

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