Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Dundalk, Drogheda, Newgrange, Tara

On the Hill of Tara all four points
Stretch to far horizons.
The sheep are lords of all they survey,
And the mounds and gullies sing of former glories.
The tourists dance around the phallus
Singing of glories to come.

At Newgrange the inscrutible dead
Sleep the sleep of millennia,
Protecting the secrets of their strange carvings.
After so much labour,
Carting stones so many miles,
Rolled on makeshift logs
Lifted labouriously into place
So the sleepers within can catch the fleeting sun
To light their eternal darkness.

In every town there is a reminder
Of the days long gone
And of the days hardly gone -
The fight with the English,
The bombings, the murders,
The Protestant churches firmly locked.

Things grow and change,
The golden arches beside the Boyne,
The half built houses on every street
The "yes" and "no" to Europe at every junction,
The English papers, the European soccer,
The Chinese students walking the streets.
Time marches, the mysterious riddles
Are left to the tourists, and historians
And the passionate tour guide
Who nonetheless must go home sometime.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Naritasan Temple, Japan, 28 August 09

I thought you might enjoy some extracts from the journal I've been keeping on my travels.

The monks chant,
their drone puctuated by cymbals,
quickened by the building, fading
pounding of the drum.
Behind their striking purple,
their gaudy green and yellow,
worshippers bow in street clothes,
shoes in plastic shopping bags,
some kneeling, telling over beads,
holding out bags and packages
for the mysterious blessing of the fire.

Above, the fierce god in his blue war paint
scowls at his worshippers,
his blue attendants matching his ferocity,
brandishing sword and chain,
fiery halo and pointed fangs.
Yet around the walls his worshippers
remain calm, unafraid,
seated in their socks
slippers stowed carefully
beneath the sepia sky.

Outside, the fierce sun
shocks us out of winter.
The carp beg beneath the bridge.
The blossoms defy stereotype.
The old man smiles a greeting,
or a comment, or perhaps
asks a question I can never answer.

Later, on the bus, the young shoppers
chatter eagerly, giggling.
The mall's bustle is just like home,
the music a European melody,
the shop signs in English.
No wonder the ancient deity
beseiged on his hill,
surrounded by his imprisoned attendants
shakes his sword so fiercely at the careless world.