Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Navigator (Dec. 2, 2004)

Inishglora ((an island off
the northwest coast of Ireland)
is probably the best known and
considered one of the holiest
of all the islands. Local people
claim that in th past all
ships sailing by lowered
their topsails to honor St.
Brendan the Navigator, who
founded the settlement here.

-- http://irishislandsinfo/glora.html

Small traces of your
shores remain -- islands
scattered in the Hebrides
where scant ruins of
the old faith moulders
down and down
in the big sea wind—
beehive oratories
now just brute molars,
one western wall of
the chapel where
your statue was long
revered (which,
it was said, that
when lifted three times,
gave a man’s hands
the power to relieve
a woman’s labor). There’s
always a St. Brendan’s
well nearby with a
legend in its murk;
waters in the one
on Inishglora are said
to turn to blood
and worms when
ferried in the hands
of women--but then
the well was also darkly
rumored to have been
a trysting spot for
ruddy monks and
pale nuns, so the
curse seems rooted
in a bliss. Such harm
and boon resounds on
all those shores where
human hands tried
to mortar down that
ache of yours for
which no ruin stands,
harbored as it is
between all shores,
out on that vast and
empty-seeming sea
where no compass or
sail or map will ever
truly do. You placed
your fate into the
hands of wind and wave
and called the voyage
God’s. For a heart
so willed to navigate
by ever letting go,
your truest remains
is that wild sea
between the stations
of our dry infirmity.
We last only so long
out there before
we take our compass back
and turn our boats
into bricks and books
and glistening nets.
It’s never what we name
and reverence but
what was free that
sodden while out
on the salt-glazed
savagery of the holy main.
Those spans are
the width of angels’
wings, a blue
reliquary large enough
to hold your bones
which never trusted
land enough
and grew strongest
walking on forever’s
grayblue loam.


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