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,
finch-flicker,
colour of sunglitter and holly berries,

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

#writephoto: Rushes

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt. A bit of historical background.

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When the Romans came, they expected to find bloodthirsty savages, baby-eating cannibals who grinned at torture and revelled in inflicting pain. What they didn’t see they invented, and their Christian monks did the same. They said we made effigies out of wicker and burned our enemies and whole herds of cattle inside them. What sense would there be in that? If we went to the trouble of taking captives, it was because we needed slaves. Why would we burn them? And who in his right mind burns healthy fat cattle to ashes?

We did weave rushes, long before the Caesar came, and still do, into a sun cross, a good luck charm that we hang over the doors of houses to protect them from fire. The crosses are dedicated to Brigid, fire goddess and protector. The monks had a story about their god who died on a wooden cross and said Brigid’s cross was a reminder of their god. They even span a yarn that Brigid was one of their own milk and water deities with no powers.

Sometimes, on Brigid’s night, when the fires are lit and the the crosses are woven, they come back, the three sisters, Brigid the poet, Brigid the healer and Brigid the smith, to dance together by a source or by the light of an Imbolc fire. Sometimes, if you’re lucky and the church has not poured out its own guttering light, its incense and its mournful litanies to defile the night and drive away the old ones you might see them dancing. And if you are even luckier, they might hold out their rushy hands, and take you with them.

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photo ©Philipp M. Moore

Fiery mother

This is obviously in honour of Brigid and all mothers.

 

The lake is a picture, Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 21.45.51

one of my mother’s,

like gardens full of roses.

She would sit in the shadows

of diamond light,

singing her life to the sky.

Come rain, shine, or stormy days,

when the moon runs purple

and the sea is drunk with sun,

she still plays the music of mist and moon.

 

I ask the fiery woman,Screen Shot 2019-02-02 at 12.20.49

what is this odour of decay

when all is greening?

Never has morning broken

so slow to warm with colour,

the night sky linger hard as ice.

Listen and remember, she says,

the song of the universe is vaster

than anything men  or gods can make.

 

The dark star smiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Brigid walked

Well.jpg

Day breaks and the rushing rain

is running rivulets through the grass.

Where her feet tread, water springs,

and speedwell, blue as her eyes peeps.

She walked this way in the dawn,

when the thrush was singing

and the sun a promise behind the hills.

She trod lightly where the iris spears

throng about the overflowing well.

She brought the sun in her fiery tresses

bedecked the fallen willow trees,

and from her swirling skirts

bright water ran and rushed,

shining streams of the eternal sky.

#writephoto flash fiction: Memorial

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt.

glaston-ma-day-dianan-117

They dug a grave, long and deep and shored it up with smooth flat stones. They laid a pavement carved with eternal signs, where feet could tread in the cool dark silence of her tomb. They placed her beneath the chamber at the end and a flat stone over her. Visitors often came to the chamber, to leave offerings of red berries, the first snowdrops, or a cup of ewe’s milk. They brought ploughshares and blades for her to bless, and new cooking pots in the hope they would always be filled.

Feet trod and wore the pavement smooth. Hands touched the smooth stone walls as they made their way through the dark and wore a gentle groove to guide those who came after. Swans came and nested on the shore of the lake below the grave and the people were glad that Brigid’s birds had not forsaken her.

Then the monks came and drove the people away. They had them close the passage and forbade them to go near with stories of devils and demons. But the common folk raised a stone where the entrance to the tomb lay hidden, and on it they carved three swans, her bird, her number, her incarnations. The monks frowned, but the stone had put down deep roots and could not be moved.

Not Brigid’s trinity, the monks said and gave another explanation with doves and fathers and sons. The offerings continued, and a new legend evolved, with a mild-mannered saintly virgin and her good works. Over the generations, the people acquiesced and the memories of the fiery goddess with the tools of a smith and the art of healing in her hands, the cycle of life and renewal beneath the tread of her feet were replaced by a more conventional, more docile figure.

Yet within the dark passages beneath the earth, in the springs, and in the stones that bear her mark, Brigid lives on, and one day, the people will remember her and the broken earth will be healed.

A month with Yeats: Day Five

“And like a sunset were her lips,
A stormy sunset on doomed ships;
A citron colour gloomed in her hair,”

From The Wanderings of Oisin: Book One by W. B. Yeats.

Morgan,_Evelyn_de_-_Flora_-_1894

Bríg

 

Where she walks, the roses wind,

And the green grass grows in the meadows lush,

The springs run sweet beneath her tread,

Where she treads light, young men lie dead.

Through red-rimmed eyes they watch her pass

With silent feet in the meadow grass,

As if she alone brought war and want

And fire from the heaven’s vault.

By sunset’s light, in daybreak’s dew,

The grasses broken shoot anew,

And in their cradles, new men clench

Their fists, as if the sun they’d quench.

 

Flash fiction: Beyond the arch

This short story is for Sue Vincent’s Thursday #writephoto prompt.

arch

She touched the lichen-crusted stoned with a finger, drew it gently over the rugous surface and felt the tingle of time. The first converts built this doorway, now an empty arch, the first Christians in a land where the pagan deities walked the fields. The air must have fair crackled with anger. What did a mournful Levantine who died hung from a tree in a desert know of the brilliance and gaiety of the horse folk, the rain-drenched forests and the long silver strands beneath a sky of scudding cloud?

The chapel had skulked on the cliff top for a while, the passionless words of its androgynous chanting and sexless singers caught by the wind and tossed into the waves. The green meadows would have none of it; the deer bolted at the sound, and on the hill, the hares twitched velvet noses and cowered.

That was then. There was no chapel now. It was long gone, crumbled into dust like the dry prayers of the monks. Though she harkened, she heard only silence and the mocking cry of the gulls. They had gone, followed their po-faced Levantine into the darkness and left the hill to the hare and the gorse. She smiled and lifted her face to the fitful sun. She was Brigid, fire and wisdom, healing and strength. Buds opened as she passed, and the breeze blew warm with a soft sprinkling of rain

Hares leapt with joy about her feet as she stepped through the archway and into the blue misty air of a morning full of larksong, and in the distance, the sounds of horses neighing and laughter round a cooking fire.

 

ruin2

The Palais Gallien in Bordeaux, for Sue.

 

Before green leaves

A poem for this day of Imbolc which is mild and bright, the sun is warm, and the birds are singing spring songs. I’m using this painting of Diana again because it’s such a joyful one.

wladyslaw_roguski_diana_na_lowach_1930

 

Before green leaves, sweet birdsong

clothes the trees in beauty,

and through the rain, the air, pearl-bright,

is blue as mists upon the ocean.

Tread with fiery feet

to warm the cockles of the earth,

and hatch the seeded fruits of autumn.

Keep your keening for the year that’s dead,

the crone laid down beneath the winter snows,

and we will sing the green and sun-dyed hopes

in the young year to come.

Brigid

Today is Brigid’s Day, the feast of Imbolc. The crone months of winter are behind us and the maiden spring is beginning. Yesterday I saw the first of the returning geese and the first butterfly. Time to look ahead and look about us at the world and what it is becoming.

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She came from the first people, those who made the hills and carved the beds of rivers and the great pools that filled with the oceans, who made light and fire. She used fire to shape the iron bones of the earth into things of beauty and usefulness, and from her father, the first poet, she inherited the gift of turning the coarse utterings of the tongue into poetry and song. From the mother of all things she learned how to heal what was sick and mend what was broken. At her side were the kings of the beasts, and around her feet spring flowers sprung. She was the soul of all that reached towards the sky, the birds, the growing things, the leaping flames. She was life and the turning seasons, adding with each revolution to the richness of the earth.

Such was the world, ordered and peaceful, ruled by wisdom and humanity, caring and beauty, until the invaders came and the great battle that divided it. To heal the wound, she took the invader king for her husband and their children were the vines that knit the broken pieces together again. But the oldest of their sons shattered the pattern again. He took his mother’s gift of shaping iron and he used it against the smith of his father’s folk, killing their wonder-worker, and taking a mortal wound himself.

The song she made for her dead son was the first lamentation for the first sin, the sin against the mother, the defiance of her authority and her wisdom. This was the first sin, and it could never be undone. Death was death, loss was loss, and the mother’s son could never return nor the pain he caused be healed. Never had such a song been sung before, and its echo was to ring out for ever and ever, in the keening for the dead.

In the dark days that followed the coming of the black monks and their worship of death, the women kept her flame alive, never letting it die. But the keening grew too loud to hear the whispered wisdom, the black robes smothered the bright flames and ignorance took the place of wisdom, rules took the place of poetry, and heavy boots shod with iron replaced the bare feet that coaxed flowers from the spring earth. The world was changed, changed utterly. And so we hear, forever and ever, the keening of women for dead sons who lost the path of wisdom and turned to folly.