Islands Of The Sea
Inishmurray
    Crocus: A Brief History


    The crocus opens out to something
    more than crocus, becomes a brief history
    of time, the ology of cosmos, as a poem is –

    impacted yellow of gold-dust, shape
    of a baby-thumb all-tentative, prelude to a new year;
    breath of fire from the dark earth, from the closed heart;

    the rose-coloured: flush of love,
    signature of the overture: – these sudden, these small
    preliminaries – polyphony of crocus – demi-semi-quavers

    of what will be an oratorio
    of hollyhock, lupin, sunflower,
    under the gold-full baton of the light.
A Singular Voice


The old font still stands: back of the church, in a dry
stillness. There is a vaguely white light coming in

through a vaguely stained window; and the polished door
still bangs in sudden Atlantic gusts. Today I stood,

old and unsteady, remembering, and grew aware again
of the unmeasured gift and demands offered to me

decades ago, at this font, under this window.  After
so many years I have come to know I was not born

with darkness already shadowing my soul,
nor was there shame or guilt laid on me

from millennia before my birth. I am Yeshua,
being held, back then, naked, in the river, angels

about me: (Ted and Nanna, Jo and Don, Patricia,
Jack and Jim, big brother Declan, perhaps some others

I cannot know) until the water-god releases me
into order, giving me a name. This is my own, public

exodus, a voice calling, and I am born. I will be
diviner of origins and destiny, I will be islandman

and in communion, creature of the stark and seemly earth,
poised always at the boundary shore of being.

They dried me off, wrapped me in the whitest shawl,
brought me out into the salt air, there where thorn bushes

stood up bare in a winter frost, where the holly’s Christmas fruit
shone scarlet against the green, and the rain fell. Carried

out of a dark beyond-comprehension vast, that
nothingness and chaos, to the potency of love and a blessed

creation. Trailed by that nothingness: in the company
of everyone: directed towards the vast, towards sainthood.

Today I walked up the tiled, central aisle of the empty church,
the sound of my footsteps lordly echoing, and offered

small lights, in thanksgiving and in fellowship. Outside
I heard the low and lingering whistle-cry of the whimbrel,

singular voice from that old bird of passage, calling
out of the desolate marshes down along the shore.
One that Gathers Samphire
(King Lear)


And where, then, have you been?
Have shifted a few sand-grains, dribbled a few
drops of a salt water. It has been

foam at the sea's edge, soiled and shivering, held
in the hands a while, till the wind took it. Out here the monks
strained for years against their bodies,

striving for the rare rewards of suffering. I feel
I did not fit too well into this world, slipped
on marble steps before the altar. But I loved well,

long and deeply, buoyed up on the swell of it
and touched ground, finding at last sufficiency, there
on the cliff-top, staring over, watching

for the Christ, the landing-place, the harbour; I was, too,
that minuscule figure at the cliff-s foot, watching
upwards. I, too, translating myself slowly

into meaning. Here is the ground where pilgrimage
ends, where pilgrimage begins, where can be learned
the innocence of islands, the unruliness, the danger.
Flux


On the split lip of the cliff
a tiny spittle of clay, merest
trickle – in the wind’s breath –
down the rock face.

The cold spring moon,
in daylight, like a disc
of silk, transparent,
over the ruined houses

at sea’s edge. Ascetics
whipped themselves towards obedience,
as the bent-near-double father
carried his daughter’s

rope-tied suitcase down
to the emigrant boat
one day of sunshine, lark song
vibrant in the air;

and I, gripping the roots of heather
for hold, lift myself
to the stratified island, to find
a foothold in the flux.
Kestrel


Vigilante couchant on a pillow of air
at-hover in the Hopkins-eye; excess of fire, self-contained, prone
to set the heather steppes ablaze:

Rufus Raptor, of the Falcon Family,
master of the chimney-stack, mistress of the house-sparrows
flustering beneath in the gutter-dust;

Prospero of the island, of moorland and coast,
upland and down, power-bolt out of the clear blue sky on field-
mouse
foraging in the fodder-grass and fescue;

colour of the autumn rust-ferns,
blackspot, buff, all mastery: will rook the rook of its twig-nest,
out-pie the magpie;

nothing personal in it, no anger, no lament,
goes courting over the fall of the sea-face; ’til soon there will be
three squinching raptors, fluffy-fresh

and steel-boned, infant bill-hook
of a hook-bill. Kestrel as fact, as sunlight and storm,
as feature of island, sharpener

of the silence, tumult of the Lord
lordly in this soul scape, thunder-light on the sea-stack, a monk
in tears, huddled under the cold and the coming dark.