Stone dykes and stone grykes,
soil disappears down the cracks
along with the grey rain.
Plants scramble to get a hold
before the water trickles away;
running deep down the inside of the hills
and reappearing in lakes and turloughs
miles away, palely reflective.
A human sized landscape, it is barren
only from a distance, up close it is rich.
Turf patches, handfuls of sweet earth.
Men have been here a long time,
they take the stone and make stone things,
tombs, dolmens, crosses, walls and forts;
and yes, shelters for contemplative priests.
The seminarian contemplates, up here alone
he can imagine the sloughing off of sin,
an oyster being rinsed by the rain,
gnarled outside, with a wet pearly interior.
Thoughts of disappearing down the cracks;
a strange fish swimming underground
through the darkened pewter flow
and sudden silvery streams, brief sunlight
on a karst spring, then back down
into a dark sinkhole.
Swimming ahead of the strange salmon
that has eaten the hazelnuts, Father Dermot
had warned them against the burden
of knowledge that the flesh carries.
Oh, flesh, how could he not have tasted it,
tasted hers, ripe and freckled when the sun
danced the lake water to exuberant sparkles?
He swims with sinuous strokes,
racing the salmon, twisting and spiralling,
grey mercurial water and the Atlantic awaits.
He thinks of the water cycle, imagines
himself rising as droplets of moisture
to rain again on the stark hills.
Rain on him, contemplating, contemplating.
Father told him he should be here for weeks,
and that a priest who has never fallen
into temptation is a priest out of touch with the flock.
He thinks he could stay here, forever, thinking
on the bare bones of the world.
[Barkeeper's note: please view jkdavies' photograph of the Burren here: