Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

When Skies Are Dark

I’m watching this today


It isn’t going well, as it’s raining, but there’s a link to yesterday’s experience, and they’ll be trying again tomorrow. The neolithic chamber at New Grange is patterned on the constellation Cygnus, which was in a slightly different place in the sky then, and when I read this, I was inspired to write this poem, which appeared in Wherever We Live Now.

Lir’s Children
No wonder they thought of swans
in the fields and bogs of Donegal,
and the wide skies of Meath, where birds
from Iceland bring in the winter.

No wonder they thought of swans
where the chambered stone at Bru na Boinne
mirrors the starry bird, whose bright eye
guides home the wandering sun in spring.

No wonder they thought of swans
who travelled like songs and monks,
lost lovers and warriors, between the cliffs
and green coasts of Alba and Eire.

No wonder they thought of vision
‘let loose like a swan on a river’,
the freedom of wide white wings,
and the wisdom of sweet Irish.

I think of children exiled and caged
in the narrow coffin of a swan’s breast,
transient as tinkers and tattie howkers,
their songs keeping them together.

And after it, the homecoming,
Tara’s bare hearths and changed days,
the thin sound of church bells, and the last
liberation of holy water.

No visible sunrise here either, but the longest darkest night is behind us now – and after this weekend, what a long dark night it was. It seems more than ever grim that we can’t be together in real life, but there are ways of holding on to each other while we wait for the light to strengthen.





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