Caught by the River

Moths, moths, so many moths

Kerri ní Dochartaigh | 20th May 2023

Kerri ní Dochartaigh introduces an extract from her newly published second book, ‘Cacophony of Bone’.

I am writing to you from the almost 4oth house of my almost 4o years. 

A few feet away from me, my young son is pooing. 

In between those vital moments for which his full attention is required for this task at hand, he is telling me about the seedlings on the window ledge of our rented home. 

How green they are! 

Tall, tall! –  reaching for the blue sky. 

Spring is heeeerrrreee! (this part is much more sing-song, his oh so beautiful wee voice mirroring the song I’ve been teaching him and the other toddlers at the community garden.)

Dusty bluebells, one two, five, six, seven!

Ohhhhh! Broken chair! I can fix dattt for you mama! 


…Outside the window, cornflower blue strips of material are draped over trees someone else placed in the dark, soft earth.

The material dances in the winds:

…‘lavender’s blue dilly dilly, lavender’s green…’

The man I love, his dada, put them up yesterday in celebration of him turning two. 

We’d sat in the garden, surrounded by seedlings and spring flowers; new friends and new trucks – a cuckoo calling, a wren flying right beside a small blue butterfly; laughter and love spilling out over the edges of an old stone wall – and fuck me but I can’t even find the words for how it all felt. 

How that if I’d died in the night I would have gone knowing that some days hold the power to fix whole decades that have gone before. Some moments come along that take the years gone before and undo them; place them back together in a way that feels more manageable. Some years come along that change us in ways that we will be grateful for always. That we will carry inside us until the last light – a charm of goldfinches. 

This book was written during a time of great change in my life; about a time during which everything, as well as nothing at all, seemed to change with each passing day. I wrote under the darkening cover of postnatal depression, at a time when I was unsure light would ever find a way back. 

It is not lost on me that during the darkest days I have known, my job was to sit and write about light.

In the longest, loneliest winter of my life, the only expectation placed on me – outwith mothering –

was to write about nests, and swallows, and newly born hope…

This small section has been chosen simply because it records the first week of May; the week this wee book came into this bright, strange, achingly beautiful world. This section talks about so much more than the happenings of that first week in that second month of that first pandemic spring, of course. 

Because that is how life works. 

It is a circle, it is a dancer, it is a fucking messer, and don’t we love it?

Isn’t being alive here, on this earth – despite every single thing that is thrown onto our paths – the most exquisitely gorgeous thing we might ever dream of experiencing?


Along the corridor, my lover is reading our son a book about garden birds. 

Hoopoe – what a weird creature!

Goldcrests – Awwww, so cute!

Bullfinches – yer ma sees them but me and you never do.

Outside the window, between a pair of branches strung with dancing ribbons, on the eve of our first Beltaine in the west of Ireland: a pair of Bullfinches.   


‘…Roses are red, dilly, dilly
Voilets are blue
Because you love me, dilly, dilly
I will love you
Let the birds sing, dilly, dilly
And the lambs play
We shall be safe, dilly, dilly
Out of harm’s way’



Copy-edits for TP.

No pilgrimage elsewhere. Our fire festival this year takes place in the places we each know the best: our own hearths, our own gardens, our own insides.

A bittern for the first time since Mull, a decade ago, as the smoke & ash worked their magic.

Stood beneath a circle of white and bawled as M tended the tall-flamed fire in silence.

What will the coming summer look like? And the winter?

Swallows, seeds and boom-boom-booming, beneath a Beltaine moon.


Such an incredible amount of butterflies in the lower field.

Worked in the garden (both types) as the dog slept in any shade she could find.

Watched Withered Hand on Insta Live as the sun set over Gorgie, and a bittern boomed over Correaly, and fuck are we alive.

And we must make each moment count.


Sat, for the whole joy-bright day, in the garden. 

Papers, coffee & goldfinches for my love’s birthday. 

No visitors to the laneway

but the cuckoo and a butchering ginger tabby. 

Feared, again and again, for the wrens. 

Cried at kind message from G on

Instagram, as sun set – peach streaks against faded gold. 

It all feels too much, the goodness that still lives in the world, despite it all.

IM picked a card from the deck for me, L sent me it in the afternoon’s bright sun: PLANTING SEEDS. I can’t even process how it made me feel; how much I want to grow something inside of me, how it won’t let me go.


Sat outside looking at so much growth in the seedlings, as a cuckoo calls & calls & calls.


Brought in, for the table, blackberry leaves and cow parsley.

Placed them in the sage-green enamel milk churn. 

Seeing it against the yellow Formica made me feel like me again for the first time in so long. 

Is this ridiculous? Am I ridiculous? Do I care?

The moon above the trees, in that pale electric blue only to be found here, was somewhat shocking. 

How can it all be real:the moon, the sky, the moon in the sky? 

The moon in the sky, and us still here beneath it? 

Is it possible to fall in love with a field? 

With white blossom blowing in a gentle breeze? 

With the light that touches both, making untameable things of them?

So close to finishing TP that I could weep. 

The hawthorn, in the early evening, seemed to urge me onwards, seemed to say it will all be OK. 

When the book is done, I am cutting off all my hair and giving it to this wild, beautiful garden.


Already the blue tits are taking my hair for their nests, just minutes after I cut it all off.


Nigella and nasturtium seedlings, pushing up to meet the morning sun.

White cuckoo flower in the top field, tall but tender.

Cleavers in the bottom field.

Is it possible to fall in love with a spider?


Lilac, flowering nettle and one I cannot name. 

I am trying to find a way to remain grounded, and these fields full of flowers feel as good a way as any.

Chard seedlings are up.

M planted the strawberry J gave us, just to the left of the sycamore.

I planted the first row of lettuce into the container made from leftover decking.

Watched, from the sofa M made from a Victorian metal bed, the silently setting sun.

Red and orange, then lilac and purple, then gone.


Reread, in the early light, the piece I wrote for Máthair last year on motherhood.

Unsure why I was so shocked that I cried. Why I felt so ashamed to. 

Why I apologised to M as though he would not understand (how could he not?).

I am such a fucking mess.

Coffee in the sun as we sort our seedlings.

Moved both hydrangea bushes to the laneway in the hope they thrive there.

The great tits took, after I had brushed her, the dog’s hair with which to build.

I felt giddy with excitement at it, unable to contain my joy.

We ate, with pasta at lunch in the sun, the first things we have grown: cress & rocket, all topped with edible flowers. The giddiness continues.

With dinner: micro broccoli, micro red Russian kale, micro rocket, wild vetch, dandelion and herb robert. Find this all, as well as clichéd, exceptionally electrifying.


More yellow in the garden that I have ever seen. 

Rereading The Grassling, of course.

We have decided, against every odd, to try for a baby.


Moths, moths, so many moths.


‘Cacophony of Bone’ is out now and available here (£16.14). 

Read Róisín Á Costello’s review here.