Alice O. Howell   


The Culdee



Yes, but I saved the rain for you


and the stones sentinel by Clogherhead


            minikin mosses hidden to the long north light


            coral roseate secrets


            so articulate


            only a cramped heart would notice



yes, and the grey wet of wind along sea cream beaches


the swinging sighs of clouds


dung hanging at the back of the cows


the beehive huts of the saints of lichen and turf


up in the bracken's supercession of


the five flapping towels of Liam Doherty's wife


            her palimpsests of patience



I paid the price in every sense


to climb pathless through the nettles


to sit stung in the empty doorway


of a soul fled fourteen hundred years



I conjured the Tir nan Og -


was he, the culdee, walking those Isles of the Blessed


now on young sensuous naked feet


bearing the stigmata of an earthly life


which nails us all?



I breathed deep the salt air


            a coarse benediction of aseptic tears


and sought for a streak of sun among the unfolded fronds -


            where were his prayers?



Dominus vobiscum my ancient, my most ubiquitous love!


yes, I prayed for emptiness


and that no one would go so lonely


            a stray gannet answered -


            out of the mists over to the Blaskets


            it came shearing, plummeting


            to the stretched and veined waters


it folded its wings


            and simply disappeared.


                                            a. o. howell