Saturday 20 January 2018

Solstice at Newgrange

Older than the pyramids of Egypt and high above the Boyne Valley floor, Joe O'Connor remembers the renowned passage grave

Dawn inches down the tunnel,

A grey snail of light,

Trailing the millennia in its wake.

It snakes to the chamber,

Slowly unfurling,

And spreads among the cope-stones,

Diffusing like hope.

Over old graven runes,

Strange spirals, soul maps.

Gospels unknowable,

Lost testaments etched.

The tomb gleams briefly,

Speaking of forever.

Sheep bellow near the river

From where the stones were fetched.

Stone rhymes with pale sun

In the womb of the fields,

As it's done for fifty centuries,

On the year's shortest day.

Its promise of sacredness

Repeating in symphonies

Played by the rocks

And the wet, winter clay.

And the wet lands of Meath

Sing a carol with the stars.

Hosanna of the planets,

As early cars pass

Bringing travellers to work,

In a city full of windows

And mothers doing shopping

Pause by tinselled storefronts.

A boy selling holly

On Moore Street,

Is laughing,

Even as the headlines

Grow weary again.

Money is tight

In Ireland this December.

The troika are coming,

Like three wise men.

But Advent cracks open

In the chorus of a carol,

Beaten out by buskers

On Aston Quay.

Buckets full of change

Chink a rhythm of your childhood.

God rest ye merry gentlemen.

Let nothing you dismay.

And everything fake disappears

For one instant.

The fairy lights, the glitter,

The things you couldn't buy.

The neon delirium

Doesn't seem to matter.

Christmas trees, heavy with shaggy aplomb,

Bow to a moment when the world was young.

In the bleak midwinter

Frosty wind made moan.

Earth stood hard as iron

Water like a stone.

And the grey light retreats

Through the shadow of itself,

The motes of dust moving

And settling again.

In a field in Co Meath,

The world is reborn.

Near a broken-down stable,

Where a homeless couple sleep,

Cows raise their heavy heads,

Astonished by the dawn.

Joe O'Connor's Wednesday radio diary is broadcast on RTE One's 'Drivetime With Mary Wilson'

Sunday Independent

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