This Voice, Swallowed by the Sky

water ripplesThis voice, this half-formed entity,

a fractured alchemy

between what is let go

and the unknown it would follow

one voice, one horizon, not amplified

but swallowed by the sky.

Akin to water, it seeks fissures,

filling cracks where it empties rivers.

Where the wind meets the waves

there is no division.

Where precision meets what you change

there’s another revision.

The moon was the only light

in a sky of blindness,

there’s no direction given.

A lost cause to lingering questions,

this voice, a puncture point in the abyss,

swims in bliss, dreams it is borderless,

like a star trailing off and incoherent,

it is moving where you can no longer hear it.

This breath, tiny and drowned out

in auditorium vastness

in the ceilings of night

that capsize all ambition,

disappearing like coins

in the hands of the magician.

A disembodied voice rippling to the far shore,

another turn in Charon’s oar

reveals the gleaming obols

from the moon’s folklore.

Joining the masquerade of clouds,

this breath hung between lines

as if on a highwire

that is pulled across the sky

to soak up what is left of the light,

this voice that illuminates the night.

Imagination, A Point of Entry

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1.

You know that feeling well,

when incomprehensible streets

greet your first steps

and a breath of woodsmoke and foreign leaves

awaken various states of disorientation.

Under the strange sheets of temporary homes,

getting off the road, a coffee’s respite

awaits those who roam through the element’s assault.

Arctic Terns and the road seems to go on and on,

each vista eclipsing the last gasp

from the sea to the snow capped peaks.

There is thought, there is action

and on a fog blurred ridge line

they become entwined

in a swirling yin and yang with the sky,

how each can obscure and direct the other.

2.

The imagination was a point of entry,

in Kjarval’s studio

where a tenuous reality meets fantasy,

the canvass becomes an extension of nature,

a weathered glimmer behind the mind’s eye,

a shifting moodscape of faces

in rock formations and lucent turf.

This sudden shift can unearth

from the inanimate a movement

that gazing inward

reveals and gives shape to.

3.

Folk tales lead us through Horgadalur,

where half wild horses are prone to majestic pauses

by the swollen rivers of lore.

The regal falls, the rush of water

through clefts in penetrable moors,

completes the jagged unity of rock and valley.

While we in our tiny vehicle

become merely a pebble

in the volcanic masonry

of landscape and now memory.

4.

At the inlet of Kista

the sea recedes back centuries

to reveal the unspeakable cruelty

done to those condemned for sorcery.

Driftwood fires leave black marks on the Strandir,

the impassible cliffs

where Basque ships

strand sailors to unforgiving coasts,

where power mad hosts wrote edicts

and pursue them like wolves,

leaving bodies bloodied on an isolated shore.

In the Westfjords, the pastoral eloquence of sheep

give way to a violence bubbling underneath.

In its history it is much of the same.

Fleeting is the light in a narrative

that is dark more often than not

but we never saw it this way,

catching Iceland’s capricious rays

in the sky, like a precious

sigh of relief,

knowing this time is brief,

this travel only temporal,

lives soon to be fractured again,

like the land beneath

that makes room for the new,

though it may assume physical separation,

it leaves us with an indelible impression,

pictures and letters to draw on

to complete a path back.

imageshorses and mountains

 

 

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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The Full Length

sand-dunes-2

To proceed over memory

drawn down the breadth of its myth.

To withdraw sand from the glass

pressed against a cracked view

of an overgrown road

soon turning into a driveway of crushed shells.

The oppressive Paleozoic heat

that reeks of swamp and burns your feet

in dunes of moccasin decay.

Feel the pulse underneath this artery

as you pass the veil

on the way to the sea.

Through a portal of scrub oak

in the cumberland undergrowth,

&lt you’ll spy blue herons in the lagoon.

Set sail in a one man vessel,

attach meaning to cloud craft

drifting across the moon,

precipitate  night words

to breach the empty beach

in the hour when all else dims

but voices by the thousand

of unseen hosts rising from within

a cacophony of hymns.

It is a sound like searching,

following whims,

encompassing all that a highway would bring

to a child kept awake by heat lightning,

transfixed on the far reaches of the gulf,

that which is spread between the mist and the veil,

the imagination and the material.

Raw and unkempt,

the blanket was a thick fabric

with the whole night sky rolled up inside.

From out of the novelty of this lens

comes the nightly emergence of pens

to populate pages of explanation.

One legend speaks of a dragon

that brought the written word to the Americas

and we’ve followed ever since

the marks that singed

the trunks of old growth forests.

We’ve listened to tales

that spoke of brilliant trails

 as its fireball sails

from out of a mysterious wellspring of suggestion,

to illuminate the skies of our introspection

and to unveil the disguise

over this ancient connection

coiled throughout the years,

through w(rites) of passage and fears

that these pale reflections

lifted from its scales

are somewhat inadequate to reveal

the full length of its depth and perfection.

The Old Pali Road Part 2

old pali road 063

The Liminal Veil
The Old Pali is spread liminally
throughout the pages
of some great mystery.
Like a cave comes the curve of the next corner.
The drive of curiosity,
the momentum, the velocity
of feet, wheels and thoughts
careening to a motion of their own.
Pulled into wind-blown trees
to greet the unseen,
to embrace this draw,
the magnetic motioning claw of the unknown.
Down its throat you’ll go alone,
with raised skin
with a sensation
that cannot be confined
to the comfortable coffins of reason.
Expanding belief, this brief revealing,
another bend, another curve,
the suggestion of a fantastic swerve
through the imagination.
There’s a collective remorse that spews forth from the Pali,
the aftermath of a skewed course
witnessed in the charred remains
pinned to the trunks of trees.
The paranormal silhouette of shadows
and banyans that strangle out the sunlight,
dripping dappled on the two-lane.
Leaves and ash are dragged by passing cars,
slowing to take in the crash,
gasps the wreckage attracts
to leave tire marks in muddy cul-de sacs
and flowering mementos on makeshift altars.

There’s quiet echoes of something whispering
“Cover me in blacktop, bone and blood”
on the backs of leaves and the bark of trees.
It is full of scars,
the headlights of mangled cars
as  it twists into the dark heart of the island,
layered with violence and trauma.
It is here on the Old Pali,
left between night and morning,
that hairpin turns
plunge into oblivion with no warning.
More than simply a road,
there is something left of the jungle
and the invading arbor
as roots and massive trees
break the concrete.
Much relates to the briefly seen,
running riot in the corners of the eyes,
in rear view mirrors the overhanging vines
lingering in light shafts
that illuminate the blacktop
contrast with cool shadows.
The smell of rain and cracked seed,
soiled wetness
sticking to dense barriers of green.
The sound of a stream running somewhere underneath.
The scrape of leaves,
vagrant and small,
led down a wind-blown hall
that speaks of an immeasurable crack
in the high peaks
perceived through breaks in the canopy.
The Old Pali holds all of this mystery.

There’s a fragile wall that withstands the wild.
Along this hairpin border,
civilization loosens its grip year after year.
There’s a veil between the imagination and the material,
labeless, luminous
like a match against the blackness of midnight
and the heaviness that crowds in from all sides.
The lips of the road foaming
at the corners of its mouth after the rain.
The walls are forming letters,
like messages from the dead,
scrawled in moss.
The ominous presence of giant trees
embrace the huddled shapes underneath.
Tears running down trunks
as if the forest was weeping.
Hung up in mist, there’s an infinite sadness
that manifests itself to the sensitive
passing along the road that sorrow built,
passing beneath those peaks and misted quilt,
which is a doorway to the spirit world.

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