Ciaran at Clonmacnoise

On Inishmore I saw the mystic tree
Expand before me: branches, twigs unfurled
A globe of shimmering capillaries -
In awe I watched the sprouting fuzz-green shoots,
Colossal shadow - birds that swooped and whirled
Returning to their distant homes with fruits.

The vision drew me to the Shannon where
It intersects a track to form a cross.
I'd found my destiny, for then and there
I felt a surge of joy, my body grow
And grow - I knew I was the omphalos:
For thrust up to the sky I saw below

The world grow dim and pilgrims from afar
Converge in lines of light to form a star.





Columbanus's Journey

The angel came and lit the alpine lake
Then drew the world before my sunken eyes:
One small part shone, but most was pagan black ...
What could I do but take my staff again
Pray that my thinning blood would bear the ice
And plod towards the rubble of the mountain?

I wept when we arrived at Bobbio -
I knew it was the end and felt as free
Beside that fish-lit stream as long ago
When leaving home I'd tried to reassure
My flailing mother, who slapped me, hugged my knees
Then rolled across to block the open door

And I had sprung screaming past her body
Knowing that leap would be my longest journey.





Fursey's Vision of Hell

The fens flow like a low tide from my door
The sky is flat and toneless as a sheet
And oaks explode in tangled lightning forks.

Watching the steady drift of wintry rain
Or sudden shock of hail I only see
That howling land, a valley filled with flame -
The sinner marched by demons from the fire -
That wretch was me - I felt his clasp and kiss
Sear on my skin my envy, lies, desire.

My penance? To be a stupor mundi

To tell my tale while watching the abyss
To sport my scars, and sweat for all and sundry
Who seek the furnace in my icy cell,
Inside my eyes, two trapdoors into hell.

     James Harpur 2007