A Diversion in Dublin

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There’s a quiet vacancy to old Dublin on a Sunday morning,
a spry vagrancy to wandering astray
into the day barely breathing
and not fully awake.
Before clocks unlock doors
and industrious footsteps
fill the corridors
of this capital
where you’ll happily
disappear into crowds.
Silence sounds even more pronounced
when pressed upon brick
and blocks of amorphous rows.
In this current comes the solitary realization
that you are alone,
hemmed in by this thought,
is a city after all
and the emptiness of these quarters
leave you to decipher
whether it is danger you are feeling
or the furtive urge
to pass straight through to the city limits
where restlessness can be spread like shadow
over the countryside and disperse.
Idyllic is nature
when our own can be anchored
to the fortitude of mountains,
you catch glimpses of them
through cracks in the windows,
they are ever a refuge.

You only get as far as St. Steven’s Green
that radiates from the center
its own serenity
of birds in hidden sanctuary,
voices who bid adieu
to the weeping willow tree.
The sky in intervals has done the same
and when you resume your wandering
it is over wet streets,
the retreat of weary soles
bound to walking, inch by inch
this city emerging
from cinched black garter belts.
To pinch a glance in greasy alleys
upon cobbles slick
for you to slink
towards the Liffey’s drink
through Temple Bar,
divergent and far from your intentions,
the warm breath of the pub
swings open stale air
but is enticing just the same
to settle into dark wood
where a good draft is a blackened river
that parts the bracken like a witch’s brew
to loosen the leaden tongue
so rooms can erupt in spontaneous song,
a catalog of longing
for sanctuary, for freedom,
for a home no longer your own
but lying somewhere between
diversion and further immersion,
between the notion of comfort
and being expelled in some immeasurable current,
such is travel.

The Poisoned Glen

poison glen
Something in the atmosphere suggests
that the name is not merely a matter of mistaken linguistics.
Words, a pale skin,
a lifeless layering of dust
over everything that has happened here.
Victims to the passing of time,
they are barely a memory,
a backdrop to the savage beauty,
a ruined church at Dunlewey,
a windowless shell of what was,
a vessel to look through the form
and see those who wander forlorn
on the other side.
In skeletal hills
the land is scarred like a dead meadow.
With shadows black
as the underside of a burnt kettle.
The scent of smoke from a distant peat fire
permeates the air,
giving rise to a pall
that punctuates the despair.
It seems the specter of the famine is ever near.
Imprinted on the wind,
a passing whimper of history,
sinister harvester of the impoverished.
The graves of someone’s children
are tiny markings under tall grass,
swallowed in the magnitude of the glen.

You sense in the stillness,
souls are never at rest.
Beneath the oratory,
a towering dome
on which the transformation was known
as Errigal, the capturer of light,
of sorrow, of flight,
of the exile pursued by sea
to his death by crushing blow
that would empty poison into this hollow,
to forever spew forth
for all that follow their envy.
You see, beauty is innocent
and beyond control.
Beauty that flourishes when left alone,
becomes poison with the alchemy
of a possessed man’s soul.
The legend of Balor is written here,
as is the ghost of the green lady.
I’m told in passing of a greedy host,
a serial murderer,
who would lure in the weary
with the promise of shelter and tea
on their way home from overseas.
A bed for the night
would rob them of life,
bodies lightened of coins,
glittering in darkened wells,
weighted, waiting to be recognized,
the ivy and this opening disguised
as it drapes a tendriled arm
over stories that were worth listening,
disturbing what was resting,
your presence, a sudden wind
slipping in between
the collar and the nape of the neck,
raising the skin
over all you were considering
in relation to this beautiful
but poisoned glen.

I Saw You

poulnabrone

I saw you in the Burren,

forlorn footprints behind limestone boulders

flowering impossible purple borders

along the edge of the sea.

You led me through the mist with whispers.

I saw you at Bishop’s Quarter Ballyvaughan

covered in ivy,

you reminded me of a song that escaped memory,

of lyrics half-obscured but suggestive

of something that could not be ignored,

of knowledge that leads me through

the far side of the portal at Poulnabrone

where we momentarily aligned

like a passage of light

on the shortest day of winter.

On the Hill of Tara

I saw you dancing around the coronation stone.

You were temporal as cloud shadow,

translucent as a feather,

bounding over burial mounds,

your light shot like arrows

from this epicenter of interlocking barrows.

I saw you at death’s doorway,

bolted shut outside the walls of Galway

near the spot where Lynch executed his own son.

I felt your hands cold as stone,

your voice windblown the sound of crows

as they bellow through empty churchyards .

I saw you at Muckross,

placing Yew branches under Celtic crosses.

You were not lost in that mystical forest

but stoked to a subtle presence

cloistered in the surroundings,

framed by the mountains,

reflected in lake waters

where all our offerings were consecrated

before they fell in an ancient well.

I saw you 8km from Dungarvan

where the River Dalligan meets the sea

and every stone on the sloping land

seems to have been placed by your own hand

in another lifetime.

Further back at Ballinalacken

towers crumbled under the weight of outsiders,

like the light in mottled vistas,

where the countryside rose to meet you,

twisting all its roads and billowing smoke

from the chimneys of tiny villages

to welcome you in from an estrangement

you seemed to wear like a rain garment,

until familiars and fires removed you from these elements

and welcomed you in from the cold.

The Tree at Muckross Abbey

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It is true that those who find it

become a part of it forever.

From the very first,

its legacy,

Daniel McCarthy Mor

sets out east from Derrynane,

inspired by a dream,

wandering through the wild,

followed by ravens

and his own thoughts

crawling like cloud shadow

over purple reeks,

lost in the emerald briar

and sacred silver wood,

see his lonely fire reflected in rock

and under a druid’s hood of oak.

Gazing out from the canopy

he sees another sun recede

at the end of his tether

and whether faith wavers for the deprived,

he would receive a guide,

ethereal voices along the lakeside

impart their twilight song,

with exquisite resonance

that belong only to this grove,

he sought residence

around the base of an ancient Yew tree,

building stone by gleaming limestone,

where all else radiates,

and is enchanted

an abbey shown by the light of the moon.

 

Centuries later Muckross Abbey

sits solemn at sunset.

Half in ruin,

haunted by the graves of Gaelic poets,

it draws you into their verse,

a darkened course through passages

incorporating your visit,

it is full of spirit,

each step layers another echo

through the corridors

and over the shadowy floors

that vault the tombs,

the imagination curling like ivy

through the empty rooms,

curling around the realization

that the dead are all around you

but through the Yew tree

that now shades the central cloister,

know that something still lives within.

A seed perpetuated

in the hollowest of places,

<p flourishes like a towering remnant

to the ancient world.

It has endured the human history,

the tragedy, the chain of ancestry

that has passed through these portals.

Its watchful presence

outlasts the absence,

dwarfing every cross and crest,

bridging the years,

coiled in its gnarled breast,

it has always been here, withstanding the test of time.

From the first friar

to Cromwell’s fire,

it is eternal.

It has witnessed the sacking,

the fallen ceiling,

the violence of war,

the trauma of flight,

the cries of the slain

stealing into the night.

The requiem of the missing bell

that left the tower but a mere shell

as it sinks into the deep well

that is Lough Leane.

The tree at Muckross Abbey

contains all these things, trapped,

bleeding red sap

for those who would violate,

hung up in its curse,

better to venerate

this relic of the ancient forest,

this vestige of all we have lost,

patience, perseverance

a quiet simplicity

a reverence for nature

amongst the dissolution.

Amid the symphony of its birds

that branch the words

like voices from long ago,

know that here in the shade

of magnificent song

this tree will endure

long after we’ve gone.

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If Only I Could Recall

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I wanted to believe

I could capture some of its essence.

A tourist with a pen

instead of a lens

to hem in all the experience

that unfolded before me

the green fields of her myth.

A modern moment presents fragments,

and they fell together, seamless

while fingers moving screen less

will attempt to speak of her width,

all that emerald pastureland

that follows ancient walls

until it falls over cliffs and into the sea.

If only I could recall the trajectory of travel,

from the peopled east, to the rugged west,

where sheep seem to outnumber

all else, perched there impossibly

on some promontory,

dotted in my memory

of hills we walked together.

The tranquility of a moment’s

sunset I could only begin

to capture in words, the color

as it merged with the North Atlantic

and towards bewitching us fully.

 

Slow down says the river

with its eternal murmur

under quiet bridges

that have channeled her

and held the weight of our ancestors.

If only I could recall each remnant from their past,

set in ivy and half collapsed in stone

where bats and crows

now circle forgotten towers

like smoke from the chimneys

of obscured homes

left to the wild and alone,

reclaimed inch by inch, year by year

in a seamless embrace.

In passing you catch the trace

of an old peat fire

and imagine the warmth of the hearth

that once held together

the pain and the laughter,

all the sorrowful banter

that time abandons

to the cold shadows of famine

slanting like a cross

on an earth-filled floor.

 

As you walk from a venerable pub

into the country dark,

you’ll listen for the subtle chime

of the grandfather clock at Foxmount

to guide past spirits that do not sleep,

past walls that will not keep

out of our imagination

that which lies on the other side of the veil.

Blurred in a half moon’s glare through trees,

the land steeped in legend,

in banshees baring teeth

what screams during the time we do not speak

but only seek to feel our way through the palpable dark

pressing in on the edges of thought,

if only one could capture what we sought of its essence

with a hurried pen,

only then we’d begin to reveal

some of the magic of a subtle presence

holding it all together.

Each experience, perhaps better to be left

burnt and entrenched

in their own immutable imprints,

conscious or unconscious,

dim or brilliant,

they’ll proceed to play a part

like voices in the art

like choices that will start

to branch out from these sturdy roots

and reveal a truth so long hidden.

Night, A Creative Entity

victoria chinatown

Curious to witness

the night,

a creative entity,

molding the light

delicate and withdrawn

into an embrace

the varying shades of saffron

over the entrance to the underground

ushered in by neon

through the moving canvass

it is projected on

shoulders and exposed skin

tattooed to a blinding whim

so long pent up within

the visual identity

now fracturing

the individual

on the cusp of discovery

a kind of ritual

sold for the price of an entrance fee.

The beat throbs

proceeds to rob all of inhibition

as they brush lightly

in this wilderness of exhibition.

With soft masses of applause,

all are warming to the Dj’s dream

to playlists that stamp energy between

white walls and velvet halls

leading to further alcoves of intoxication.

Surreptitious claws reach out for connection

for attention, there’s an apprehension,

featureless

yet with an intuitive fashion

famed for its derangement of the senses.

You dance willingly in this suspension

until the red light framed in doorways

draws your attention

and suddenly it is closing time

and all are expelled

like shadows to evaporate

through the steaming plates of chinatown

to disintegrate and drown

in the space between strangers

who’ll communicate with an empty eighth

to the first rays of light

breaking through the shade

and the window pane

breathing between thin sheets of white

on which the versatile night

will leave its mark once again.

Primitive Animation

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You afforded us the briefest of views

narrow chasms

the light imbued

as it staged the original cinema

on your inner landscapes.

Like a shadow Astaire

that once danced on the walls,

now cast in calcite glistening,

becoming echo chambers

to leave us listening

to the rain water weathering

of rock in rhythmic drips.

Cascades of drapery

over a mixed media

of oblique movements,

the primitive animation

of subtle emanations

from the imagination,

like burnt wood and resin

beneath a landslide ceiling.

The way the cave of your mouth is sealing

the silent mystery of Chauvet.

Who’s left to interpret your printed palms?

Crooked alien fingers

and torch marks tucked away,

who’s left to gaze upon your rudimentary figure?

A Paleolithic Venus

with spearheads deeply embedded in skin,

becomes the root of this form of depiction,

the navel’s indention,

like a fingerprint,

is a sensual window into a hidden wound.

In this world light and shadow coalesce,

like an eclipse,

in the accentuation of the hips

set in black,

the curve of the abdomen,

or the lower back,

a deliberate staging

of pictorial decaying

touched up over time.

In unreachable alcoves

we’ll define the audible whispers of suggestion

against an infinite backdrop of silent repression.