Days of water

An Imbolc poem for earthweal.

caillou Brigid's flood

Days of water
nights of rushing wind
and only thoughts of fire.

Winter runs in these cold streams,
dull browns and mud-grey,
sodden with cloud-spill.

No light, bright and sharp
as whetted steel,
no gold glints among the weeds

or the mud-stirred ditches;
winter runs still
in these cold veins,

only the birds,
colour of sunglitter and holly berries,

dance to the music of Brigid’s footsteps,
settle on the budding twig-snap
of her fiery fingers.


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.

45 thoughts on “Days of water”

  1. I really like the way you use the contrast between the dullness and the brightness. I love that twig-snap at the end, and the birds – the only colour and movement we’re getting at the moment. February is filling dykes all round us. This is just gorgeous.

    1. Thanks. I’d have written a more Brigidy poem if it wasn’t flooding everywhere. Gales, high tides and torrential rain. Not much fire at all, and it’s been green and growing all winter so not much obvious change there either!

  2. I’m sorry it’s still raining there. But all the things Sarah said. 😀
    I love “finch-flicker”. That’s just what those small birds do.

    We watched an Irish movie last night, and in it, a little girl tells her mother a “bed-time story” of Brigid. She says her teacher’s version is boring, so this is how she remembers it. I was thinking, “I’ve heard of Brigid because of Jane.” 😀

    1. Thank you 🙂 We have a couple of bird flocks come around every day. Tits (great tits, blue tits, long-tailed tits and coal tits) swarm around the fat balls, and a separate flock of goldfinches, greenfinches and chaffinches sweep up the seeds I put on the ground. The goldfinches are gorgeous.

      Brigid was such an important figure in pre-Christian Ireland—a pagan, a woman, and a metalworker—that she had to be got rid of. They diluted her into a clutch of nuns each one holier and blander than the next. Not surprising the little girl found her boring!

  3. Traditional sightings of Brigit becomes more problematic at the end of the calm Holocene. Maybe we’ll see her, maybe the birds will adopt a later, latter faith. But the fire will return; Imbolc is essentially the quickening of that rebirth. And writing an Imbolc poem given present conditions requires a finer sight and ear — at last and least, a twig-snap. It is enough for me, thanks to the laden set-up which precedes. (Cold veins indeed …) – Brendan

    1. I think we’ve lost too much spontaneity. We get all mystical about Mother Earth etc etc then sit down to a meal of factory produced steak. Yes, we know spring will come, but we don’t know why.

  4. We’re having another day of water, Jane, and I feel as if I’m looking at your poem through my window. I can see those ‘dull browns and mud-grey, / sodden with cloud-spill’. These lines give me hope:
    ‘only the birds,
    colour of sunglitter and holly berries’
    and I love the ‘budding twig-snap of her fiery fingers’.

    1. Thanks Kim. I was woken just after 5am by the flood alert siren sounding down in the town. All the flood water from our little stream had hit the Garonne and added to the flood water of umpteen other streams and it was over its banks.
      Not raining today though, gloriously warm (23°C) and the stream is back where it ought to be.

    1. Thank you! Yes, Brigid was the deity who had the skill of (among other things) working iron, a pretty hefty gift in the bronze and iron ages. That a woman should have that gift was anathema to most cults/religions so she had to be downgraded to a nun, an abused but long-suffering and forgiving nun/holywoman/virgin. The type that’s the flower of womanhood.

      1. The archeological evidence shows us that prehistoric women had lives far less constricted than many women today. Up until this century, if a skeleton was found with weapons it was assumed to be male. Science now tells us that many are women. A recent find in Austria is of a Bronze Age woman buried with metal working tools.

  5. Finch flitter and sunglitter are wonderful images. I like the cold flow of water, yes indeed fears of flooding but the tiny birds bring the hope and light of the changing season and dear old/young Brigid with her fiery fingers.

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