Read and Listen
“A Celtic Blessing”
on the occasion of the wedding of my daughter Kathleen to Timothy Sean
Bless to you the way under your feet.
Bless to you the hope in your swelling hearts
Bless to you the love spilling from your soul-charged eyes.
May you be able to hear each other in the soft rustle of your fears.
May you be balm to each other’s brokenness.
May you be to each other in anxious moments the tree’s shade in the heat of the day.
May you be a fruitful branch on the tree of life –
burgeoning with vitality and bountiful grace.
May the branches of your being
bridge the gap between you -
but may you not lean too heavily
on each other – bending your true shape.
May your joys be as plentiful as the grass and sorrows drop sparsely
to flow swiftly away.
May you have courage to dare and wisdom to seize your chances which fade like the colours of Spring.
In the hushed stillness of your souls, may you build your place of peace.
May you be full in your living;
May you be deep in your thinking
May you be endless in your loving
And may the Creator – God keep you in the eye of his compassion
“To Hell or Connanght”
“Here I am my back to the wall, playing tunes unto empty pockets” O’Raftery
To feel bereft of sustenance
at the end of your day
the best gone from you
no hearth your own.
With patron, dead or fled,
you stitch a rhyme together
holding strands of bygone days
in your shaken spirit.
To be without succour
in the absence of light,
nothing to nourish you
in the oncoming night.
Your cry cuts across the years
to penetrate the heart.
O irreparable loss, desolate bard,
displaced, morose and impoverished.
Pain that permeates to the bone
and cracks the soul is the mantle you bear.
Rough fields and poor soil
were the remnant left to the Gael,
dispossessed and pushed to the margins.
Strangers in their own land,
they are no longer sheltered under
the chieftain’s largesse.
The clan system shattered,
leaving shards and fragments
of a former world fading
as they watched.
The chieftains have fled
from loss and pain,
the people remain
in their sorrow,
lamenting dispersal and displacement,
dispossessed, at one stroke,
of their leaders and their lands.
Removed from the hearth
that heated and held the heart.
Sat down by the highway,
with the threads of my life
frayed and fluttering
in the storm of my rage
Paupers now, we once were
kin to kings.
Our ways overwhelmed by
a deluge of strangers.
From an oasis to a desert,
from paradise to Hades
without a Lethe to wash away
the nettle of memory.
We move, as though dead,
westward, in the cold grey of November
hassled and harassed by the soldiery,
who benefit from our misery,
granted our horses and our holdings
A stained and rocky trail of tears.
From largesse to leanness,
from plenty to penury,
from brightness to bleakness,
from nurturing hearth to desolate heath.
The smoored ashes of the clans,
the embers of our tradition,
are scattered in the Puritan wind
of a calloused army,
the driving sword of change
held by a zealot,
who saw the “mere” Irish
as uncivilized, less than human.
Wave upon wave hit the rugged coast,
later to embark across the sea,
landless, broken, and uprooted —
chaff on the wind of fate.
The generous lords are gone,
the praise of the chieftains silenced.
Only a curse left on the lips of the bard:
“May the maggots in the void of Hell
gnaw at your heart, Cromwell, for ever.
And may the High King of Heaven bring again
our valleys and fields to our keeping.”