I Saw You


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


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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