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Places of Truth

by Jay Ramsay


   from By the Shores of Loch Awe


And if you come here, in the rain

As we came off the map by the edge of the road

To a wet tractor-track leading up out of sight,

Slow walking, steep, rutted among stones –

The old path, long unused, untrodden


If you come this way, in the pine-scented air,

In the quietening, gathering, waiting air,

You may feel something coming to meet you

Stirring under your feet and clearing in your eyes

Though there is nothing you can see


But pines and bracken; until you glimpse – walls,

Fringing the green – low, bleached, lichen covered

Walls, and a skirting wall where the gate once was:

And we paused there, without knowing why –


Wading through the bracken, to it –

To the left portal with its Devil’s Handprint


To gaze at it, roofless, among fallen masonry –


Overgrown, now given back:

                                   given to bracken, to ragwort

Flowering, thistle-heads, bees – and a butterfly

Given in the arms of a dead tree, leaning

By the far wall, with one branch of it alive –


Given to light, and intact – the font intact,

Aumbries and piscina, and our steps

Unsure of what we were about to tread on;


Stone, or earth, or gravestones – carved, abandoned

Asleep in the rain and the light, among the flowers

By the sanctuary of the walls, where no one comes,

And there is no more death and no more time –

And what is dead, and alive, are one


And by this font I want to be baptized:

To be born here, married here, die here, feast here –


This is the place of the heart’s wild baptism,

The heart’s own, its own way


Baptism, and faith in the broken –

Faith, broken the heart’s way to resurrection;

There is no service here, no solemn congregation

Baptism, among the bees and the trees for witness


Baptism, and you touch me on my forehead

Baptism of touch, with all that matters most

Baptism, and he bows and cannot speak


Baptism of fire and of blood – and it’s all beauty,

All of it, every fallen stone – none of it wasted –

None of it, ever

If you come here, come in your heart: only that

            Only Listen

Imagine what might happen

if you shut your mouth and listened:


you might fall into a thousand

pieces of light


each irradiated

with birdsong and blue sky


each of them speaking

your original name.


In all your senses –

hearing, tasting,

touching, smelling, and sensing –

fill them with listening


and you will find yourself again.




And when you have become your listening

your breath will heal you of all misgiving


and all the tightness you have held

all over your body and being


will become a babbling stream of healing,

caressing and soothing, sustaining every cell …


and you will be the one you always were within,

who silently lives underneath everything.




And if you listen, high above the sound of the water

in the sun-dappled beech trees like a church built

all around the birdsong – you may hear


a flute: dipping, and gliding, and soaring

in and out of the stillness of a dream …


And long after the girl who played the flute has gone

you will hear, or imagine you hear, her song …


half-heard between the leaf-breeze and the stream

where it has become your listening.

  Cathedral of the Breast



First glimpsed in the moonlight

under the cliff’s hollowed overhang

impossibly, improbably, this

sand-smooth wind-sculpted

– in a precise wind tunnel location –  

the whispered sand grains spiralling

into a perfect full breast

topped by a nipple of rock

four foot by three


and in its cathedral

nave, altar and font.




You call it the Cathedral of the Breast

this one woman naked church

where you spent your fasting days

(and mostly naked).


It’s a climb up the dune from camp

past a halfway clump of broom.


Breast in delicious early sun

(breast in all lights and seasons)

and the cavity behind it

a wall to lean against with its interior

so like peeling plaster

in this vast ancient niche


and above, at the hill mountain’s peak

the eyes of an eagle, beak

worn smooth, filed by wind

but the eyes forever seeing.



A naked man closens

under his few remaining clothes.


He pauses at the threshold

then makes his way round, making sure

to leave her shape untrodden.


He leans against the hollowed rock

slowly surrendering all inward striving

into being held from behind

deeply as his spine can release

falling softly backwards into time

resting his neck on its effortless

exact pillar of stone.


He rests his whole being in creation

that is the createdness inside each cell of him

held by an eternal lover

he never knew he had

and never thought he knew.


A little later he leans forward

and spreads his arms lying

his cheek pillowed against her.


Now rest and feed from the breast;

rest and suck to your heart’s content.




He could rest for hours, for days even

and can for as long as he needs to

but another voice is calling him

down to the rocks below

into the sun and the wide open wadi

where there’s no visible form

and the wind blows.


It says I am the Father

and you are my son. Will you come?

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