Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Monday, January 31, 2005

Skellig Michael (Jan. 28, 2005)

Looking back from the great civilizations
of 12th-century France or 17th-century
Rome, it is hard to believe that for quite
a long time -- almost a hundred years --
Wester Christianity survived by clinging
to places like Skellig Michael, a pinnacle
of rock eighteen miles from the Irish coast,
rising seven hundred feet out of the sea.

-- Kenneth Clark

Here is your most desolate
shore of rock, southwest
of all we build and till
and love: What a brutal
bed it is, O Lord,
500 feet of stone perched
above a sea-blast
which choirs below
all dreams with the
blessed thunder
of salt’s destiny.
You bid me build
this oratory beyond
all ears, joining my
voice to mashing waves
and a legion of gales,
each note not so
much offered as ripped
from my lips. Here
the oldest gods are
ravenous and raw,
their bones knocking
like boulders against
first rock, fucking
and dismembering
and roaring pure blue
riot, foaling water-dragons
of the tongue I dare not
speak but must because
this hour derives its
gospel from such abyss.
O God it’s lonely here
between angel wing
and heartless tide,
my song a rock
gnawed by appetites
which have not human
end, or, at least
for which few people
I have known would
care to bend their
inner ear. So be it,
ten waves I daily row:
I will make of this
mote in the sea’s
eternal eye a chapel
for every selkie and
child of Lir to lose
their wits on their
way here, long ago
today and perhaps
tomorrow, perhaps
as long as this rock
remains at the last
shore of the heart.


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