Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Poem As A Beach At Dawn (July 2004)

The ancient image of Our Lady in
the Lady Chapel in the Church of
Notre Dame at Granville in Normandy
was found on the shore of Cap Lihoo.
It was set up in its own chapel, and is
still the focus of a pardon on the last
Sunday in July called “Grand Pardon
des Corporations et de la Mer.”

-- Nigel Pennick, Celtic Sacred Landscapes

My job as I see it is to vigil the matins
of this waking summer shore and receive
what the sea deigns to return to me:
To sing each day’s arrival with the tide,
building a white chapel in which a
freight grows sacred and is altared,
incensed, believed, hosanna’d. I never
know just what I’ll find here -- a dream
perhaps, or some memory loosed
from the well, or a resonant bit of story.
I let the sea decide. I just walk here
on the moony sound while the surf
crashes silver milk at my feet, nursing
my inner ears and eyes. And even that’s
imagined as I sit in this chair in my
house squat in town, the dark outside
a cat’s attentive drowse. My job is to
make of that a beach I walk, and believe
I’ll find down its sandy lane the very
shape the next song needs. See: there
ahead a clump winnowing a receding
wave: the beached masthead of
a long-split ship, trailing in her hair,
a bit of barnacle kissing her faded lip.
She was carved two centuries ago
from the likeness of Our Lady in
which was washed ashore two centuries
before, a rebirth of the mother of the
Celtic gods, herself found in a tide-pool
three thousand years before, delved
from goddesses whose names drowned
many thousand years further back.
But their tidings all remain, as well
the shore which here washes down
the lengths of journal-paper. My job
is to hear that surf inside and give it
here a beach where devotees like me still
walk in the nuptials of the coming day,
my pen across the page the wet part
of the sea, what she bids shore in me.


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