Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Monday, December 13, 2004

My Father's Chapel (1988)

In a black-and-white photograph
my father stands before his chapel.
His face is set hard and grey
like the standing stone he rests a hand on.
The sky behind is troubled.

This is my altar to him.

My father’s chapel is hidden in the woods,
assembled from stone rows that grew from
generations of field-clearing.
Inside the chapel it is damp, dark, cool,
a descent into old regions of the world.

A quartz-veined, granite boulder
ten feet round fills the center of the chapel.
It is a heart forged in brimstone and eternal cold.
It was in my father for years before he dug it up.

My father says he is a steward of ancient spirits
he calls The Guardians. He met their chief at Iona:
Thor, the black blasted warrior of the Hebridean wind,
How my father’s heart burst with love for him. . .

One winter solstice, my father’s chapel
was bitterly cold. Frail candles flickered in
the windows, sad winds bent the bones
of trees. The death of the year.

My father and I sang together that solstice night,
our voices deepened by the resonance
of stone walls. We sang a plainchant of loss
and of infant hope. That was the dream of my father,
That is the shadow of my heart.

Tonight, on this winter solstice, I raise my
voice in song to my father’s bitter sea
that blusters deep in the conch of my ear,
a song forever trapped in the chapel of these bones.


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