Veins of time

For the earthweal challenge.
Photo ©O’Dea


In the hollow under-the-ground
stone-flagged whorled endlessly
the silence of five thousand years of night whispers.

No breath but moth souls
brush with papery wings this space
a womb cradling death in the dark

and every breath of mine
borrowed from the ancient dead

footsteps echoing
theirs now and dwindling into the before time
when there was only night and day
birth and death

and in between
the waiting for ends
and beginnings.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

24 thoughts on “Veins of time”

  1. Such beautiful language and images! I love no breath but moth souls–and all the references to time (of course.) 😀

    When I read this, I thought of “deep time” and Underland, and I see he referenced those terms in the challenge. And it’s funny (another coincidence) 😏 but this morning while I was walking, I was looking at the fieldstone of the old house at the park and wondered what sights those old stones have seen.

    1. Thank you! I keep writing about my first time inside the passage grave at Newgrange hoping I won’t forget how it felt.
      I didn’t know deep time or Underland so I’m afraid the references were over my head.
      You were obviously thinking about the same sort of thing—nothing older than stones.

      1. You’re welcome! It must be quite a place and experience. I was probably thinking the same thoughts while you were writing or posting your poem!
        Black Bough Poetry did what became a two-volume set of poetry inspired by Underland and Deep Time.

      2. Ah, okay. I see now. I missed those.
        Newgrange was a great experience though what it feels like to visit it with a horde of other people, I don’t know. Must take some of the mystery out of it.

  2. I often think about the connection to our predecessors when I visit such places, and can hear ‘the silence of five thousand years of night whispers.’ It was perhaps a simpler time then, and perhaps in their simplicity they understood more.

    1. I think you’re right. They were frightened by different things, had fewer things to be frightened of, and they probably knew what really matters, something we’ve forgotten.

  3. My father worked in stone. He built a chapel in the woods of his Columcille in eastern PA, the walls raised by stone clipped off nearby Blue Mountain by glaciers. Going in there always felt like entering the heart of time. Cold, stellar time. When Werner Herzog entered the paleolithic cave at Chauvet he said it was like staring into the abyss of time. How so too with New Grange … with breath “borrowed from the ancient dead.” Ahem. – Brendan

  4. When I read this poem, I immediately thought of Newgrange, Jane, and then I read the comments! I took Ellen when we were living in Co Meath, when she was very little. I remember the ‘silence of five thousand years of night whispers’. And it was easy to imagine the moth souls with their papery wings. I always wondered what it would be like at the Solstice sunrise.

    1. When I visited it was in the 70s and the outside hadn’t been as neatly tidied up and polished as it is now. We were in a tiny group (the 6 of us made up half of it) and it was dark, nobody spoke, the guide whispered and as an adolescent, I really felt that I was breathing air that was thousands of years old. It was magical.

  5. SO wonderful – the moth souls with their papery wings, your breath borrowed from the dead………..a gorgeous read.

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