Clear Isle

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For those who the beacon was a beginning,
coffin ship sailors,
for many it was simultaneously an end.
You’ll have to decide
letting the unseen guide
and manage the rest.
Even amidst the trials of travel
one is blessed.
With wind in the hood
and rain dripping from a pack,
pause in your tracks
above coves and inlets
and behold this wayward stroke,
the road making its way
through a grove of spring gold,
this draft of the unknown
is told to the sea
rippling below Baltimore
where thoughts foam
where momentum of will
can roam all the way to Clear Isle,
where not much is said
between the whisper of wind in the grass
and the hush of the calm sea
beneath the tranquility of its landscape.
Distraction seems shaved from shear cliffs.
The spirit remains to walk bends in the high pastureland,
known to the sheep and their wizened expressions
of pastoral eloquence,
the quiet, immediate to access,
to ask “Have we changed or receded backwards?”
Towards this backwoods in time.
Time, that stood still as a Yew tree
the steady boughs
through which the wind at night manifests itself in howls,
where nothing determines or obstructs
the land from the sea,
where the Fastnet Beacon decrees its light
to flash across the sky in illuminated intervals
like lightning enlightening utter darkness with caresses,
furtive expressions of something haunted and otherworldly.

Clear is an island of amorphous green,
seeming to punctuate the extremes,
thatched stone and endless sky,
scenes to include the migratory
who thrive along edges,
beyond walls and expectations
we anticipate crossroads and come and go.
The essence of our nature is continuous, eternal,
but parallel paths seem choked with doubt,
muddled by pursuit
of power and influence,
it is a river running red until drought,
it is the ego’s omnipresence fed the marrow of dreams,
its shadow is larger than it seems,
constructing its fascade,
wall by wall,
we’ll rebuild it,
brick by brick
after every fall,
nothing remains permanently
whether completed
all will dissolve,
all is cleared here,
in the wake of impermanence and dissolution,
I cast a clear eye on Clear Isle.

Silence Commands its Enigma

Drombeg black and white
Cloud shadow moves over Drombeg stone circle.
As it always has.
Satellite skin
unveiling the forgotten
which is hidden
within the cryptic code of dreams.
The past preludes where we are going,
this moment, in the circle,
timeless and frozen,
an exceptional contribution
to the mark of mankind.
Perfectly positioned for solstice,
its possible meaning, measureless
for each individual it is worthy of reverence,
for each, a silent presence that offers no answers.
To some it means everything,
to others, nothing at all.

From all corners, these feet pilgrim through.
To pay homage
To pose for the montage,
its image reproduced in photo files
that cannot capture its true worth,
for long after we depart this earth,
the circle that has endured
will watch over the sea
on its small ridge of stranded stone
marking the burials and the rituals of ancestors.
You can feel the ancient lines
with the comparative youth of fingers,
coloring and cradling time,
another attempt at illusion,
a modicum of control,
decisions shudder like buoys
bobbing on the water
growing darker below the last trees.
The deep lull laps tongues of seaweed,
wedded to its rocky promontory
as you were to the choice to return.

It is all one unfolding portal
for wind to pass
for sunlight to gift with shadow,
for travel to tap into the unseen,
following
piercing the sky,
at one moment pale, lean,
now tilting towards darkness,
late late darkness in Ireland
and Drombeg will resume its rapt, eternal stance.
The silence of its ridge commands its enigma,
satellite stones
thrown in the purposeful harboring of secrets,
inner passages for light to filter down
to an inner chamber
of infinite spirals,
the magnetic motioning
on faraway dials,
examine the trials men have endured
to haul these stones impossible distances
to these altars,
raised epicenters
unchanged for a millenia.
It has been arranged, this moment of interaction,
for one to contribute to its history,
for your shadow becomes a petroglyph
on the surface of its mystery.

Kinsale and the Residue of Mystery

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When the fog lifts off of Kinsale Harbor
and you see the sun reflected
like the pale eye of a dead fish
in the murky waters of tangleweed and shipwreck debris,
note that some places are left with an unmistakable residue of mystery.

When the blue heron lifts its distinctive wings
from the wellspring of Kinsale Harbor,
its languid sweep will remain etched
like a deep thread in the memory of ancestors.
Blue hewn and imbued with significance,
it carries unseen alms
for those who go down to sea
to gather pebbles
and piece by piece reconstruct their history.

When the legend of the white lady is lifted
from the lips of locals living by Kinsale Harbor,
you recognize the enduring motif
of tragedy and unrequited love
evident in all these stories
that haunt quiet lanes and Norman churches.

Shadows fleeting, we catch mystery in the details,
words sticking to you like an oppressive air,
when attached to a physical place,
we put them down in fog-obscured and isolated towns
where the imagination is bound to usher in the drowned dead
to wander through another headland in the sea.
If it is in your disposition to receive these visions,
they’ll be reaching through windows,
or if auditory, their subtle transmissions
get trapped like a piper’s notes
to float like the widow’s ghost
over the silence of old forts.
Amplified, the recording is replayed over and over
on the rampart’s leap, they remain spellbound,
this port town where this is recurring.
You see the tide going out,
the sails receding in the first light of morning,
you stayed long enough, it had touched you without warning,
Kinsale and its haunted aura
and in your wake you’ll leave the harbor
but know it remains with you, like a tragic lover,
linked arm in arm under the cover
of memory, of synchronicity,
destined for the recollection of travel
and the impression you left when passing through.

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

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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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