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.

The Unsettled Past

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When you become a veil

between the past and the present

through what you feel

and what you relate,

what allows the both to meet and perhaps heal

the psychic wound between them?

The trauma is visible

in the landscape of a buried story.

Twilight persuades the edges to fall away,

 suddenly it is yesterday

and it seems nothing has changed.

But you know how it ends

as the sun bends over the Ko’olau rims

and dark begins to settle in

to the borders of our lives.

You feel compelled to tell it again,

at the foot of a mountainous urge

to speak the words by way of suggestion,

what lies behind the mist

as darkness lifts from where it was hidden.

It is gathering its powers again,

to squeeze the light into submission.

Every evening at about this time,

on the surface of the sea,

whole swaths sprawled bloody

as canoes are dragged ashore,

the sudden exile as the beach goers

gather apparel and drift away

from the longing waves and their approach.

Where nothing remains

save the shallow graves of footprints.

In time the crescent moon appears

as muffled sounds lend trickery to the ears.

The shadows of trees fill the park,

like the impression in the dark

of ghosts in your mind.

With no flashlight to guide,

with no distraction for your thoughts to reside,

you begin to imagine the walk, the stillness,

the ominous car parked in the corner of the eyes.

Soon there’s Kalapawai lit up with spaceship lights,

this haven feels like miles away

for those who play beyond the neighborhood curfew.

Waiting under the banyan at dead man’s curve,

a car swerves into view

with faces pressed against the glass,

you blink your eyes tightly

to see if this image lasts

of the helpless who pass into the wind

of leaves dragged behind machines.

It quiets down, you blink, and there it is again

as if on repeat

in the dark corridors of stone wall and tropical branch,

this proto projector permitting an obscured glance

of the fleeting macabre dance

of the hopelessly unsettled past.

What is Completed?

takis-dominick-equally-damaged

The interpretation of art,

like a rebirth of thought.

Each new piece regenerates

all that came before it.

It venerates the ancestor

of no definitive answer,

instead coloring and giving birth

to an infinite texture.

Contours you’ll resume

by tracing this womb throughout.

It begins by lightly brushing the surface,

as graceful as a lizard’s limbs

over the coarse skin of tree bark.

The canvass stretched taut,

silent and thin as a moth’s wings

deafening when you’re listening

to a certain frequency of rain,

it resonates like a train of thought,

seismic as a teardrop in a pool,

radiating in myriad directions.

Each stroke is an impression,

passing over the surface like an apparition,

tuned into the unseen,

its lingering reception recalling

all those things that stay with you.

Each step is an embryo

for new material to come through

the subconscious,

no longer dormant

but with a slow flow

as if emerging from a volcano,

the vaporous past absorbed into the current,

transformed from within,

to be reborn as new land

calling into question

as you perceive from the edge

“What is ever fully completed?”

With Grave Irony

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The old ways disintegrate like waves in a lost break.

When sand is shipped in

and the coral is swept away.

The floral air

once fragrant and clear

now hangs like  a vog in the atmosphere.

Acid rains from dark clouds

sewerage stains in Ala Wai ripples

luminescent abstracts from street lamps

replaces the moon whose stamps

once brilliantly rested on an ink-black surface.

Now in the rush of heavy traffic

that moves without purpose

always crowding its way into the picture

of nature

castaway in a film-clipped motion

to the currents of a discarded pool.

Father time is a deaf mute

and silence settles no score.

Voices were drowned out

and struggle settled like silt on the ocean floor.

You can hear them at times in the blowhole moaning

as if mourning their passing.

Their muffled cries still trapped in the land,

in the gasp of wind

through shattered palace windows

or on the tide-battered rock wall,

who takes down their cryptic scrawl?

Where the waves crawl

and antiquity collapses into the sea,

note with grave irony,

that which was once so powerful,

still disperses easily.

A pre-statehood Hawaii,

soon to disintegrate into waves of outsiders,

invasive seeds

strangling what was once pristine,

replacing with industry and enterprise

with highways and highrise

greed in its civilized disguise,

native land in a tourniquet tied

in high wires and eyesore telephone towers

that stand out like tumors on the sacred peaks.

There’s plenty of reception

to pose the question,

Does progress hear through the static and speak

of all that cannot be replaced?

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