You may know that I write poetry, but Buddy Breathing is not usually where I post it, if at all. You will find a small selection here on my author website, but the timing is such that I am going to post a newish poem here today.
It’s a poem I’ve been scratching away at since I first was accepted into the Northern Ireland 2014 ~ Storytelling, Music, Art, and Peace experience. Thanks to Gareth Higgins, Karen Moore and David Wilcox, the wonderful co-leaders of this trip, poet, priest, philosopher and scholar John O’Donohue’s legacy of mindfully walking the Irish landscape will be realized once again for a small group of most fortunate people, myself included. The long call of home to my birthplace, to talk and walk and open anew to understand… in just a few short days I will answer what has been percolating inside me for years. I sense changing coming.
Maybe even before I knew of this pilgrimage I’ve imagined myself arriving in a place like that described in my poem. A wild and desolate place, perhaps the middle of a wide and endless field, or the top of a rounded barren hill (not a mountain as I’m not that kind of adventurer), or an abandoned once inhabited place grown over and melding again with the earth. Any such place I’ve seen in movies or aptly described in a book or glimpsed in reality or dreamed myself to… are somewhat liminal spaces between here and somewhere, between what is and what could be.
For me landscapes best describe how it might feel to stand physically and/or metaphorically at a transition, an edge, and to feel the pull of such a place… and so in this spirit the poem began. It is, as always, a work in progress.
Take the path up
through the stinking mud
and tufted grass barely rooted
in barren. Keep on up
to the cliff top, lean
into the wind, tears
pulled from your eyes and drained
down stark lined cheeks. Up, up
to the edge where all that lies ahead
is North Sea waves half ice over shipwrecks,
selkie dreams dashed hard
on the jagged shore. Look north,
out where the sky meets mossy
undulations of standing waves,
where looking back at yourself you are nothing
but a speck of possibility. Look down
at shoes muddied and scuffed, wild
brambles hitch hiked to your old wool coat.
Reach out your hands,
ridged nails on fingers
wrinkled staccato with terror. There,
and only if you dare,
open up your life,
widen your lungs to salt mist, your veins
to the pulsing hum of thin places.
Steady yourself, eyes up, up,
your heart a fast cloud in the groaning gale.
Feel the heft of surf’s begging boil
beneath you. But stand your ground.