Tag Archives: history

Making Returns

I’ve been sick with the whisky of sorrow
Drowning in draughts of deep grief
Delirious, intoxicated by the excitement of chaos
Shame the thick tenebrous brew that I drink

I have chosen isolation, drunk from such loneliness
The sharp scent of silence staining my breath
Tending a pantry of long bottled secrets
Despair, and terror, and regret

Here are the hops of hope, all drained dry
The jinn of constant crisis and its tonics on recall
Cocktails of confusion and forbidden joy
And of the cider of solace, not much left at all

Here are my chilled kegs of childhood memories
Just the hurtful ones … I want a refund if I can
And the traits on tap I formed to survive these
If nothing else, please take them off my hands

I want the light stuff, it never goes bad
Something soothing and gentle to calm me inside
The soft touch of wholeness to shelter all that I have
The spring thaw of winter to bring me alive

For the past and its memories, there are no returns
And though life has its trials, no one keeps score
The freedom you long for isn’t something to earn
Learn to trust that with patients, you’ll live more and more

We’ll trade for your hatred, your blame and your rage
Deep peace and acceptance, forgiveness comes slow
And gently replace the twinned silence and shame
With the seeds of compassion, that with you will grow

Your need for pain, your constant clinging in fear
You now can safely leave behind
Hope shines centered in the stillness here
Gathered together, it’s love that we find

Remember, grief cannot be exchanged
Without the tears cried, it’s joy that you’ll lack
And please be mindful when making each change
Of the old and familiar, so you don’t choose it back

Advertisements

The Gifts of Grieving

At the center of each of us
A deep pool glistens
A well of tears
Fed from rivers of remembering

Here, exhausted hearts stop to rest
To spill the growing grief of moonless tides
Gently, waves wash gnarled bent hands
And the gaunt faces of mothers with stillborn dreams

Sorrow of sisters who could not tell their stories
Weary weeping borne with the nameless burdens
No time to reflect, slow down and ask questions
No time to repair all that’s worn through and ragged

Sunlight slowly smooths the surface
And the fog of forgetting retreats
Peaceful honesty, soft touch of gold hues
Soothes the swirling swells to calm

And from the vivid depths of human losses
I witness myriads of mirrored faces
See myself reflected in them all
As have millions of eyes before mine

Eyes that have watched deserts
Being formed from women and children
Singed with the screaming
Sparks of raw hatred

Eyes that closed yearning
For the warm welcome of family
In between long hours
The endless hunger of the red-splashed anger

We cannot evaporate the charred scars of our choices
Some tracks of tears weren’t meant to be dried
Healing hides in this quiet reservoir of keening
I will tend it tenderly with salty rain

Hill of Tara Part 1, Ireland, 2015

I step off the large tour bus. Mom, very tired, stands to my left. In front of us the hill of Tara rises, and even closer than that, clumps of tourists, families and groups of friends, mill about. We are an odd blending of strangers and companions, all with stories of our own, dropped here from around the world to visit, for all our myriad of reasons, a part of our heritage.

It is a beautiful summer afternoon, the sun shines radiant but unobtrusively through the clear, blue sky, its rays dancing a compromise on the cool breeze, as if seeking, in midfall, to defer deferentially to already ensconced patches of shade.

A cacophony of conversation drifts up the hill over endless neatly mowed grass. Grass? At Tara? When did this happen? The question intrudes on my thoughts and I’m not sure who it’s from. All I know is that, when I was here before long ago, the place was mostly dirt, and grass in the form of neatly kept lawn was conspicuously absent.

To see the place once more, but without eyes, haunts me, taunts me with visions which will remain unconfirmed, cheating me out of an intimacy I once shared. I can walk but cannot trace the contours of the landscape with my eyes, and for a moment I am grief stricken, like someone who can behold but never touch the one she loves.

The metal gate would have been absent of course. so would the bus that dwarfed the distances I might have once traveled by foot. Would I recognize those footpaths now, or would they be permanently lost to me, covered over by time and transformation, deforestation, and fresh green grass? I have little time to ponder, for now the woman with the calm, high voice who will be our guide for the next hour issues us through the gate and we begin our ascent.

Part of me recognizes what I am doing as quite normal and routine, exactly the kind of sequence of events that occurs during a mass tour of an ancient site. And we had had no choice about the large tour group, either. Our trip to Tara is part of a larger tour of the Boinne Valley, including Newgrange, which we visited earlier. The neolithic stones are only accessible through booking a tour with the visitor’s center. What else might I have expected?

The answer comes unbidden to me, unannounced, almost a surprise. For we entered Tara without challenge or ordeal, no statements of pedigree, degree and right, status or reason for business. And I remembered, from somewhere deep within, how such a display of worthiness was required if a person wished to even remotely be considered for the welcoming. And here we are, without trial or travail. My surprise, I realize, is not at the details of the memory, but my unnerving feeling of culture shock.

And “Now watch your step,” warns our vigilant tour guide, in a tone of voice that conveys her desire to avoid a repeat of some prior mishap. “The grass is slippery and wet, and the ground is uneven.”

Of course it is, I think to myself. The first thing I notice, with a pang of sadness, is the absence of the great wall. The open grassland unsettles me, any trace of a protective embrace now long since eroded away. We walk past two stones, which our guide explains are all that remain of an ancient rite of kingship. It was said that these stones were placed a specific distance apart, and that a potential king would only be allowed onto further initiations if he could drive a chariot between the stones without touching them. I felt the two stones, the aspiring king would have had to be very skilled indeed to accomplish the challenge.

I am grateful when mom is too tired to walk with the rest of the group, and we fall behind. I need distance, and badly. Besides our feet upon the now grassy earth and the birds chattering in sporadic song, the occasional caught phrase from a fellow tourist up ahead, the wind whispering its opinion now and again in low, hushed tones – the place is silent, silent.

No one lives here. No horses whinny impatiently in a stable, no king’s servants hurry by with provisions, wash buckets, hay bundles, or cooking pots. No last minute commotion to repair a building. No children hollering and playing in the dirt. No pits for fires, no conclaves of brehons, no bards with their harps, no druids preparing the ceremonies of Samhain. No shouts from the now absent walls. No buildings in fact, except for a church, constructed in 1822.

It’s a very interesting church, but while I am appreciating its existence and contribution to the long history of this place, I am left grappling with the elusive transience of uncertainty forged through the passage of time. Time and its remnants seem to emanate from this place from every age, from the stone age to the present, clambering for their own share of loyalty, of recognition, of honor. In the midst of the iconic passage tombs with their transparent mystery, the allure of the Christian era crossing the minds of those from the middle ages to modernity, casting its shadows over the past, Tara from the second century CE seems to have fallen into obscurity. To the hand or the eye mapping the surface, the time I walked this world as Mairin is almost forgotten, or else shrouded in the misunderstandings and messiness of myth.

We walk on. My feet take to the landscape almost effortlessly. True to our guide’s word, the ground is quite uneven and slippery. Mom stumbles, and instantly I catch her fall, perfectly poised on the ridge of a dip in the landscape. Farther on she trips again. Again, I compensate without thinking, immediately placing us solidly on the furrowed plane of the hill. “Don’t worry, this is what sighted guide is for,” I joke, grinning at her, “So that I can ensure you don’t lose your balance.”

We laugh. “You’re doing pretty well,” she admits and I wonder, should I tell her that I am fairly convinced that I know my way around?

I decide against it. Mom is pretty tired after all and I feel she might need a break from conversation: she’s been describing landscapes and standing stones to me all day. Besides, I don’t know where my brothers are, and if either of them overhear, I’ll be hard pressed for a decent explanation. In fact, I’ve yet to figure out an adequate explanation that satisfies myself, though I can feel myself teasing out the story from my bones, as if patiently completing a one thousand piece puzzle.

Just before we crest the top of the hill, it is plain to me that I do in fact have some sort of instinctual memory of the place. Toward the top is a very steep portion, and forgetting mom’s fatigue, I bound up the steep incline like a dear in the dark, slowing down only because I am still holding onto mom’s arm, and I can’t as well drag her with me.

I want, so badly want, to run, to race up the rest of the hill, then race down again, several times, until I’ve exhausted myself. But I don’t have Allegro or my cane with me, and I can’t run with a cane anyway, doing so is the equivalent of sprinting with a big stick, and that has other potentially hazardous consequences (usually for other people.)

So I do the next best thing, what I have always done when I long to be able to move gracefully in a world that doesn’t allow that without vision: I take a moment and imagine, in vivid sensory detail, what it would be like to move fast on my own. Then I let go of the desire. I’ve done all I can with it.

Mounds within mounds. Age packed onto age. Standing atop it all at the summit, where everyone with the eyes for it are looking out over three fourths of the whole country, history sings to me from far beyond who I was, far before who I am now. As I stand, the energy of this place captivates me, courses through me, a raw reverberation of remembrances. I am centered in their radiance. As if a tree, rooted, I pull up a current of change that seems to seap out of the ground through the soles of my shoes, traveling like sap through a tree trunk, until I am not sure where the soul of the land ends and my spirit begins. That is when I remember.

Threading Over And Through: The Endless Journey

Far beyond that one, ephemeral day,
Vitality ever flies, clear and shimmering.

Within the lone wolf’s mournful howl
They heard their own cries, calling out, calling in return.

These are ones who lived beyond their sorrow,
For all in their sunrise to see.

the sunset Of their one flutter of light
Has scattered their existence.

Perhaps we will glimpse an old reflection of ourselves,
In the still and silent water,

Or perhaps, when the lightning strikes,
We will once again raise leafy hands to the sky,

Aware of the intertwining roots,
Anchoring us firmly to the heart of earth,

And the way we take light into ourselves,
A feast of the many colors.

The great charged arcs from the dark clouds above,
Illuminate the core of us from inside out.

I am here, now,
In this starlit night,

And I become the lonesome wolf cry,
You, the moon I call to.

You, shining through the mist beyond the horizon,
I find we have once again traded places.

I will shelter you from the storm,
Though its anger strikes out, I stay your tears.

The map is lost,
Though that’s not stopped any of us from making the journey,

And always I will hold you safe,
Far from bitter winds, even when it seems no one understands.

Plato’s Cave

Again I’ve stepped from Plato’s cave
Where no idea is self-made,
Surprised how cold thought’s pure embrace,
Beneath eternity’s marble face.

I’ve come before here once or twice,
Its beauty chiseled out of ice,
Such stillness, not a rock exhales,
Pristine, unmoved, things-in-themselves.

A permanent transcendent time,
Is the world of Forms, the Good, Sublime.
Staring out of fixed stone eyes,
A changeless gaze, a semblance of the wise.

But what’s remembered lives, it’s the truth I understand,
And the whispering trees whose spring leaves appear,
In winter shake their branches clear,
Cycles turn time’s circling hands.

Mired in the sticky sap of love,
Gently dry the loss from grief stained eyes,
And the unkempt joy and laughter of
Each person’s full and fragile life.

Such a vibrant, wondrous mystery,
Sacred the shadows, sacred the living light.
What tales can be shared without a history,
Or in the silence of perfection, where no day follows night?

I have no need of any rescuing,
Nor need of wandering the ideal world above,
And it’s in the breaking open, that I fly free,
To soar with laughter, tears, and love.

The Hunger Years

I remember your thin and hollow faces,
And the eyes that stared unfocussed from them,
And how you tried laughing but only cried.

I remember how you buried children in tiny indentations in the rocks,
Because all the furrows on your land
Were already lined with bodies,
Planted as lovingly as seeds.

I remember the trees’ sorrow when you were beneath them, not around them,
I remember the gravely paper-thin hands
That kept moving, long after no one was growing old.

I remember the sand that fell through fingers like displaced tears,
As you held tenuously onto life,
Grasping at earth and sky.

There were loud time gongs everywhere:
Church bells that rang out through empty spaces,
Tolling death through thickly crowded silences.

The living had no use for words,
Merely kept each other close,
Haunting their own hearths that had gone vacant, cold.

I remember that what kept breathing was the water and the stones.
Conversations hushed, so as to not wake the dead.
Conversations hushed, as to not exhaust the living.

I remember how a day felt like a lifetime,
How you won more time over and over,
I remember when freedom lost it’s meaning,
I remember how existence became an agony.

And yet you still moved, and you would die trying,
And the end would find you scrambling
For that one thing that might sustain you.

I remember how you starved for life,
While so many others hungered for greed.
And how they envied you, secretly,
Those whose souls mirrored your emaciated bodies.

I remember how you stood on your feet for hours
In the streets gaunt and raw,
Tattered clothing, stomachs distended and hollow,

A smolder of the light that lived inside you.
And when time ran out, how you dissipated on the wind,
Joining with the many whispering voices.

I remember the rhythmic throbbing of leaving,
Ebbing and flowing like waves crashing
Over the sands pale white with their grieving

I remember the colors of sadness atop the flagpoles.
I remember the shape of dreams as they hovered on horizons,
Like the ghostly hulls of ships in the fog:
The last withering hope to be taken to a new world.

Unsure of where I stand,
Disconnected, but one and the same,
How long would it take to be counted among everyone?
How long would it take to count everyone?

Living takes time, it’s opposite does not,
And I realize we are as fragile as snowflakes.
Lost in what has been and what might be,

I remember as time stands still.
I was not there.

The Old Woman _ Spring 2013

She took my hands between her own
Herself of the mists and shadows,
I might never have noticed her

But the earnestness in those sea eyes,
They held mine–
I could not look away.

I will see you again, barely whispered within me–
And yes, I recognized her, Old and weathered,
A tree that has seen much,
Survived great things.

She was not a child, barely five feet tall.
Yes, I knew her—
Before I was born here again, I knew her.

The predawn finds me
Within the restless wakefulness of a night watcher
startled to have entered a vigil
I am unaware of ever keeping.

I compel myself to silence,
An endless stream of faces, lines etched in skin–
Because of how many losses do I exist?

The question’s afraid to be asked.
Awe and terror of it leaves me instinctively shrinking,
And I curl up under the covers, sobbing like a child against
The truth of things, it shatters into broken glass,

Shards of myself piercing through the hard outer shell
Piece by piece, I am wounded for it:
For gathering what lies broken and undone,
Deserves to come back whole.

This grief for what I never knew I lost:
How many memories will pull me out of sleep,
Drag me into themselves
As if I have become a prisoner of mirrors?

I took her hands in mine,
She is my great grandmother, my daughter,
And so I am haunted by what is.

Gone, all of them gone now,
But not from the marrow of my dreams
That ebb and flow, of places I’ve never seen,
Tides I’ve never known.

I’ll see you again, she said,
I uncoil my fragile body, exhausted with trembling,
Peal the blanket away from my eyes
And I am not alone.

Who are you?
Lingering where questions lie unanswered,
Breathing in silence, together.

To The Four Who Helped Me Heal: I Remember You In All I Do

I sit in my room in California at a computer with words in my head, and wonder briefly what you would think of this place Or of us, so starved of space and time,  so anguished to find purpose and meaning and a sense of our own measure.  With tears in my eyes, I am afraid that I am unable to mend the torn And shattered places where we  are full of pain.  Afraid that I will not know how to gather this screaming, ravaged and wounded world Into my arms, close to my heart like a mother cradles her child,   and with gentle hands and soft murmurings, allow it to remember itself  and let go, sob like an infant for all that’s broken within it. 

 

All I yearned to do out on a walk today was sit with back against tree so we could console each other, the tree and me.  Instead I walked without rest like a wandering shade because I could never come to a tree alone without getting lost. Because of how many violations of love do I have the privilege to live where I do?  Because of how many truths trampled in the clash of cultures, twisted within the bindings of forced misremembering, do I go out and walk this world?  I don’t know whether you’re gone to another world or whether or not we have all run from the startling possibilities you show us are always within ourselves.  If only we were not afraid of our own power, our own voices. 

 

They say you lie still, well met by those with the courage to turn their eyes inward, hidden within the caverns of Ériu, among the sidhe.  Within the underground passageways blocked and overcrowded with discarded forgotten ones, we stored the maps to our souls and we could not retrieve them.  We left all who dwell there to shine a light of their own ineffectively at the bare gray walls where no one living dares to tread. 

 

I heard your call, faint and distant on the wind, and answered you, journeying to that forbidding landscape, hushed with the heavy presence of an ancient imprint, where a traveler twice blew the Dord Fiann, but I found nothing there.  I tried to excavate shadows of what could have been.  I scrambled, falling and sliding,  along the limestone paths leading underground that spiral down, down, down.  I hurled myself into motion, and shouted what words you lived by– the truth against the world–, and gave an almost forgotten cry, and threw my wild defiant spirit so that it flew as high as the dome of the sky.  And tears fell on my hands like rain, but I could not recover all that lies dormant within us, or disentangle your memories from the snares and trappings of our history. 

 

So I stayed where you are, sitting down with you,, unwilling to fly like the wind when you could not now do so yourselves.  We exchanged stories, and though mine were few and yours were numbered as many to formulate an age, we found the grit and color of our everyday living had carved it’s deep lines into the faces of all of us in turn.  And slowly the sound of all things that happen resounded throughout all I’ve ever been, and all I am now. 

 

And then I realized  the cave was merely a projection made by this day’s obsession with fear when, in fact, we each are standing on the tallest hill.  Each watching the sun rise, so close we could reach out, hold each others’ hands, though our times here on this sacred ground are farther apart than a millennium. For a moment, our journeys crossed, and in that moment I felt the walls dissolve and in their place, Green and shimmering, hundreds of miles of fields, and a peace I never could have dreamed.

 

But I did dream, and have done better than dream.  In my dreams I have come to the land of the young, Tír na nóg.  In my dreams I have been to the places you once walked the earth, fierce with wise wonder.  I have spoken with you face to face and you stood by me unconditionally.  And despite the caves and the fear and the many running from who they are, those of us who still remember Rekindle the light that otherwise might have gone out of our eyes, and are not afraid to stand by our own experience, not afraid to blaze with every fiber of our being, burning with passions that never had names, shining out from the very core of our wild and wondrous, mysterious and majestic selves, like living stars.