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Iona

by Mary Palmer

SAMPLES

           Preacher

 

wild hair, grey

to the shoulder

 

a wolf, smalt eyes burning

with a clear flame

 

this Celt warrior

smoulders into song

 

in Relig Oran’s dolman chapel

commands the flow of voices

over stone

 

murmurings, that echo –

an ocean flooding in

 

so light strikes the silver cross

beneath a graven lintel

 

as solstice sun

skeletons seated in an ancient barrow:

 

tongues of fire could descend –

the howl of grief, ‘I want him back!’

 

tinder dry bones

and this Cave of Death

 

rattle with dancing

     Black Madonna

 

         St Michael’s Chapel

 

Ebony,

               Ebony,    

tiger lilies

should garland you

 

their petals, like tongues of fire

blazing in the slave-dark.

 

Ebony,

            candles gutter

and your skin gleams

as if stained by tears

 

yet, soul quiet,

a light

           flickers

in your downcast eyes,

a light we cannot violate.                                                                                                  

Ebony,

             Madonna,

dragon buds unleashing flame,

I halo you

 

and wreath your son,

newborn to dung and dirt.

 Pasture of the Geese

 

I have crawled on beaches,

hands sticky with blood and tar

 

clambered rocks where

the guillemot draggles

oil-slicked wings.

 

No more angel than a shag,

a junkie tossed to the gulls,

I gobbled up my nightmare

and retched on the dark.

 

Now, I treasure-trail barefoot,

squat on dunes soft as breasts

where water-flags surge

and lambs shudder the ewe.

 

Here, in this thin place,

I choose to dream.

 

Milk-blue terns

light

         on water

like pebbles skim my longing –

 

for the wild goose

whose wings, alone,

can shelter.